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DIMPLE KAPADIA is a very special woman who carries herself with rare dignity. From ``Bobby'' to ``Sagar'' to ``Lekin,'' she has been the object of desire for many a cinemagoer. Here in ``Leela'' as a visiting professor to the U.S., she is a charmer all the way. Exhilarating is the air she breathes, bewitching is the glance she casts and enticingly vulnerable is her condition.

Close to 40, and far removed from her man back in Mumbai who pens words beautiful in content but almost ugly in pretence, she is a picture of smouldering sensuality. With her poise and polish, she makes you yearn and pine. Driven by the tide of time, perfidy stares her in the face. In the warmth of a young, becoming man, she is like a cold candle set aflame. In the distance, is an ode to love, a poet's song, no surgeon yet bringing relief, no scalpel yet helping heal. All is in a moment. Spend it in bliss, the rest is unseen. Yet there is a problem. In a moment life might encapsulate its joys, yet life is not just a moment, however precious it might be. And the man to offer her `freedom' is actually not a man. He is just a boy of 18, still a student, still learning, still pursuing.

He can spell love without realising the meaning, he can make love without understanding the consequences.

And that is exactly where director Somnath Sen falters. In this loose take off on "Summer of '42", the two are brought together by the sweep of circumstances. The woman involved in an `open marriage', the boy a post-modern creation, who bets on going to bed, keeps rubber handy, walks out on sniping parents and then finds that the woman he did it all for, may not be his. She may have been a poet's muse in the past, but now she is her own woman. An independent woman with a mind of her own, she is plausible as a wife unhappy in marriage but willing to make compromises to make it tick. All until she hears another woman calling from her husband's bed. That is the point she lets go of her inhibitions and collapses like surging waves of the sea against young rocks on the shore. That is also the time the director stretches the realm of credibility a wee bit. The change from the student-teacher relationship to lover-beloved bond is not chiselled out to perfection. And in its final denouement, it is almost escapist. Simplistic in delineation, over simple in solution, it devolves into only a little more than nothingness. Yet, in that little lies great joy. Largely because of Dimple's sensitive portrayal, Amol Mhatre's ("Leela" is his first film) aptly awkward presentation of a youngster in love with an older woman, and Jagjit Singh's voice, which adds to the charms of Gulzar and Nida Fazli's fetching words. Watch "Leela" at the end of a long, lonely day. It won't be a bad companion to take home to dream, desire...


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