ANUJ KUMAR

DRONA

(Golcha and other theatres in Delhi and elsewhere)

For all the hype surrounding it, “Drona” fails to live up to its larger-than-life canvas and characters. Late into the second half of the film, a sage tells Drona, “You have to be Drona not just from the body but also from the soul.” The assertion comes too late. Nevertheless it exemplifies a film marred by a shoddy script and loose characterisation. It never connects.

Superhero films follow a simple rule: The protagonist lives dual lives. One as an ordinary man — most of the time he is shown as a cute romanticist — and the other, of course, the all-pervasive hunk out to save the Universe. Now Abhishek Bachchan can’t look a cute romanticist. No complaints. He can only brood and look intense, so the director is expected to make him play to his strengths. But Goldie Behl here has not given him enough reasons to showcase his prowess. Goldie has just given him a bearded look, no persona.

The result is Abhishek looks utterly confused.

In the second half when he transforms into a saviour, Drona continues to look hesitant, unsure of his powers. So, apart from the armour, there is no contrast between Aditya and Drona. It seems the director had a fantastic idea and went out to shoot without giving it flesh and blood. All that talk that it is not a superhero film but the story of an ordinary boy who realises his destiny and finds it hard to come to terms with it sounds hollow in the absence of any plausible sub-text and one-dimensional characters.

Films like “Drona” require a certain pace to maintain the suspension of disbelief. Here as Abhishek broods, “Drona” drags. The real action starts almost 90 minutes into the film. Fantasy demands its own consistency. Here in the first half, the protagonists move in flashy cars but fight with knives and swords.

Priyanka Chopra as the shadow of Drona is completely wasted. Apart from a couple of fight scenes, she is literally a shadow.

Her number in praise of Drona is out of sync with her character.

The only person in tune with the fantasy is Kay Kay Menon as the megalomaniac magician, Riz Raizada, who wants to become immortal by having the amrit whose location only Drona knows. Only Menon has made efforts to give a cardboard character an iota of credibility. He has played with ordinary words like fizool for chilling effect.

Among the few positives, “Drona” has some exquisitely crafted stunt scenes: the moving train in the desert; the beautiful shots of desert meeting the ocean. Goldie has also shown some ingenuity in making the villain speak through puppets. But then amazing shots and animation just make for scenery. Characters make them appealing. “Drona” is yet another poop film whose shelf life ends by Sunday.

KIDNAP

(Delite, Delhi, and other theatres)

In the other violent offering from Bollywood this Gandhi Jayanti, director Sanjay Gadhvi doesn’t disappoint. He manages to keep the pace he mastered with his much talked about “Dhoom” series not long ago.

His premise is simple. A youngster with a troubled childhood kidnaps the daughter of a business magnate. Now the tycoon is under his thumb. He gives the father some clues to track his daughter. These clues hook you, and after that Imran Khan and Sanjay Dutt take you over. Both have a mass following and here Gadhvi has given them enough drama to perform. Imran had shown in his first Bollywood outing that he was here to stay. As the menacing kidnapper here now, he proves he has the versatility. His cute face and stone cold eyes provide the requisite contrast for Kabeer, the guy who was victimised in childhood. That the plot gives him an opportunity to showcase his chiselled body is a bonus.

Sanjay Dutt is back to his dashing ways after a sabbatical. He effortlessly slips into the role of an arrogant father who realises his riches are of no value in front of a razor-sharp boy. His remorse over the past has shades of his personal life and hence sounds all the more credible. As he goes for the clues, Dutt’s larger-than-life presence makes some of the improbable sub-plots look convincing.

Minissha Lamba, as the victim, looks fetching. Almost every Bollywood heroine at some point in her career chooses a film to shed inhibitions. Minnisha has chosen the right vehicle to showcase her sassy side. An otherwise limited actress, here she fits the bill as the perky girl whose love for swimming gets her into trouble!

Yes, there are loopholes in the plot. In the action sequences Dutt’s body double is quite perceptible, but the film unfolds at such a pace that you give reality a miss. This masala entertainer could have been better had it been edited with a little more precision in the second half. The climax takes a little long in coming. Still, worth a watch during this festival week.

RAMCHAND PAKISTANI

(Satyam, Delhi, and other theatres)

In this age of instant gratification, we tend to forget that cinema is also for the marginalised and the neglected lot of society. It is films like “Ramchand Pakistani” that shift the focus to them.

Here director Mehreen Jabbar has taken up the plight of people languishing in jails for having inadvertently crossed the international border. Inspired by a true story, she tracks the life of a young Pakistani Hindu dalit boy who accidentally crosses into India at the time of war-like tension between the two countries. His father follows him and both are arrested by the security forces.

Initially they are branded as infiltrators, but soon the police realise they are innocent. However, there is no system in place to send them back.

No, the film doesn’t try to make a political comment. It just follows the life of an adolescent in a prison and with it tells a hundred inconvenient truths unravelling layers of sub-text about relationships, discrimination and the politics of the region. The subject has ample scope for preaching and drama, but Mehreen has kept the melodrama off the screenplay to the barest minimum, presenting life as it is.

In a parallel track, Mehreen follows the life of a wife and mother learning to cope with the trauma of separation from her family. Nandita Das is quite at ease as the mother, Champa. The star of the show is the little boy Syed Fazal Hussain. Ramchand is not just a cute boy you love to hold. The character requires a range of emotions and Fazal is very much up to the task.

Rashid Farooqui as the father Shankar is convincing. The scene where he controls his tears when Ramchand parts with him stays with you long after the credits roll.

Mehreen has shown remarkable sensitivity in carving the characters. At times the film gives you the feel of a documentary, but then it is a director’s prerogative.

After “Khuda Kay Liye”, this is the second film from Pakistan which impresses with its originality of subject and intent. It calls for support to the flagging industry across the border. Don’t expect a blockbuster here; just watch it for the sheer sensitivity of the plot.

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