METRO PLUS

A slice of life

Shabana Azmi (with Urmila Matondkar) is luminous as Rukhsana Jamal

Shabana Azmi (with Urmila Matondkar) is luminous as Rukhsana Jamal  

Tehzeeb (Hindi)

Cast: Shabana Azmi,

Urmila Matondkar, Dia Mirza,

Arjun Rampal

Dir: Khalid Mohamed

Music: A.R. Rahman

KHALID MOHAMED, who earned a little slice of celluloid fame with Fiza, earns a little crumb of adulation with Tehzeeb. Does he take the cake? No, he falls short. Maybe he is not hungry enough though in this take on the life of an ambitious singer who wants her daughter to follow suit, he gets plenty of help from that wonderful artiste called Shabana Azmi. Seen on the big screen for the first time since terrifying kids with Makdee, her face radiates a joy — astonishing for someone so seasoned. Her voice still has freshness to it and she is still able to invest in a new emotion on her face. Never the greatest of stars, in her eyes and voice are buried a million emotions, each more enthralling than the other.

As Rukhsana Jamal, a woman who loves her art but forgets that life is the greatest of arts, she paints a canvas with the soft strokes of autumn and tells us that you don't have to scream for attention on the silver screen. Now vice, now virtuous, she takes you in a comfort zone where everything appears easy - even acting!

There is nothing garish about her here. She loves her husband, she loves her daughters. But she loves her craft too. There are no black and whites in her life. Just like life, there is plenty of grey. Now as the distressed mother, now as a distraught wife, now as a desperate singer whose popularity seems a terrible obligation, she mirrors many people's thoughts. And takes the viewers from being mere passive spectators to non-participant observers.

If Shabana is head and shoulders above the rest of the cast, spare a thought for Urmila Matondkar too. Here is a girl who never gives up trying, a girl so high on sincerity that you feel for her when she is not able to do better than the best. As Tehzeeb, the daughter who would rather be just a wife and a sister than a singer, she tries her best to play ball with Azmi. Alas! Her face and voice register only certain emotions we have got used to in post-Bhoot and Pinjar days. And her Urdu is clearly flawed.

To give her credit, it is not an easy role she is asked to essay. She plays Azmi's eldest daughter who marries and settles down to domesticity on her own volition, looks after her little sister who has not grown with years. She also lives to suspect her mother of the worst when it comes to her relationship with her father. But Urmila is a sincere artiste who is yet to step beyond being a good actress. She is adequate without being awesome.

Much like Dia Mirza. As the mentally handicapped daughter, she is cute, adorable and delivers easily the best performance of her nascent career. Yes, there is Diana Hayden making her debut with a cameo. As a book publisher, she is sexy without being beautiful. There is Arjun Rampal too with understated elegance and a smile so nice.

What about Khalid? Well, he stays honest to the script until he has that same old itch to insert an item number - remember Sushmita Sen in Fiza? - and he uses the same style, technique, camera angles to cover a dance number each on Namrata Shirodkar and Urmila. The script is far from easy flowing, the story has complexities interwoven in all the characters. Yet, Khalid manages to make a film that does not have too many stumbles. He stays focussed most of the time, and is clearly aiming at the multiplex crowd. With old world manners and that diminishing trait called grace, he is able to take this film beyond the Bollywood stereotype. No falling over banana peels, no bullets piercing through wooden heroes, no intemperate howling of overrated actresses here. Khalid's is a fine without being a fascinating venture. It may not score at the box-office, it may not please the frontbenchers but it will keep the popcorn munching, cola sipping multiplex crowd happy.

ZIYA US SALAM

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