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``Filhaal''... falling short of expectations.

IF ONLY it was filhaal - for the moment. But, no. It dragged on for what seemed like eternity and ended on a disappointing note. All because one had expectations - of the filmmaker, her genes and the fact that she is so contemporary. The concepts she has dealt with are certainly with the times - but the way they have been handled fall short of what one expects of her.

``Filhaal" is Meghna Gulzar's first directorial venture. It is her story - never mind if it is a bit thin. It is primarily about a woman's (Rewa) longing to bear a child and it does not happen. Moved by her agony her friend (Sia) volunteers to bear her a baby and hand it over to her when its all done. All very well except that in this decision nobody else really plays a part - the husband (Dhruv), the parents, the boyfriend (Saahil). This could be a real life situation with cloning, genetically planned babies, womb renting, surrogate motherhood emerging as trends in modern life. But it should have an element of realism about it. You don't come across men who are so understanding and adoring that they accept whatever decision. That holds good for a boyfriend who accepts a girlfriend, whom he loves to distraction, bearing another man's child!

And what about the cloying love between two friends? On celluloid in this case it all seems very contrived and forced. The smoothness and the warmth such emotions can generate are simply not there. On occasions, Rewa's desire for a child leaves you with an impatience, understanding her feelings notwithstanding. And the friendship itself seems to lack that naturalness and bonhomie that would warrant such a decision.

So what went wrong? Is it the casting? Not really because you have none other than Tabu who not only looks good but is a fine actress. There couldn't be any other who could have done justice to the role - but she comes across as a weak, sniffling woman whom you just want to slap and tell her to get on with life and adopt a baby. And you have Sushmita who has graduated from being just a pretty face to someone who can do a good job provided the director can extract the best out of her. But here most times, her cheer and chirpiness are irritating to say the least. To add to that her face takes on different hues in each frame - sometimes pink, sometimes white at other times beige. But of course that couldn't really be her fault.

Sanjay Suri has the soft looks for the gentle character he essays. But he seems rather wasted because of the ineffectiveness of character. As for Palash Sen (from the music group, Euphoria) who plays the understanding boyfriend - well he is just there.

With the script and dialogue being very ordinary and the music even more so (Anu Malik), the film really does not have a chance to take off. It is full of cliches which are not revolutionary but pedestrian.

One thing that really stands out in this film is the camera work by Manmohan Singh. However, one song (``Dil Ke Sannate"), picturised on Palash Sen and sung by him is an assault on the ears. In fact it was like a rude wake up song just in case you had fallen asleep while viewing the film.


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