Fanaa, the film is based on a simple philosophy: It is always easy to chose between good and evil but what determines the course of our lives is how we chose the better of two goods and the safer of two evils. No doubt Fanaa is a good movie but if you ask me, I think I chose the worse of two goods. There are better movies around as compared to Fanaa, just that I decided to go for this one rather than the better ones.
Going into this movie, I had great expectations from it given that I am an ardent fan of Aamir Khan. But the actor falls flat in his performance, especially when pitted against as talented a co-star as Kajol. More on him later but first I want to focus on Kajol.
Kajol has given a wonderful performance. This multi-faceted actress can carry an entire movie on her back. I feel that our film industry has lost a great artist since she stopped working. Today’s Ranis and Preitys and Priyankas are no match to her. I read an argument (probably on Mouthshut or maybe while talking to a friend, not sure though) that Kajol’s character in Fanaa was deliberately created as blind to add more challenge to her role as she was returning to the big screen after a long hiatus. I find this argument totally absurd because as was evident from her performance, she still had all the qualities that a multi-talented artist of her calibre possesses.
The one good thing about the movie is that Kajol’s character has been very well established, which is something that Aamir’s character lacks. Kajol is shown to be a young Kashmiri blind girl whose life has been totally under control of her parents. Her parent, though shown as conservatives, do not suppress her desires and wishes. This is how she is able to decide about her visit to Delhi much to the happiness of her parents.
Once in Delhi, Zooni experiences the kind of freedom that she has not even dreamed of in Kashmir. Though blind, she takes to Delhi like one of its very own. And when Rehan starts flirting with her, she doesn’t retreat into a shell. Rather she responds to his flirting. She is overjoyed at being in an alien surrounding all alone, and she loves her freedom. When she is alone with Rehan, she is amused, joyous, anxious, playful, all at the same time. To show such emotions at the same time calls for some brilliant performance which only Kajol could deliver. She shows that she is determined not to let her disability become her weakness and her first encounter with Rehan is evident of that when Rehan remarks ‘Arre andhi hai kya?‘ to which she replies ‘Haan andhi hoon, tumko dikhai nahi diya kya?‘ The dialogue sequence was amusing for the viewer but it showed the acceptance that Zooni had in her mind for her disability.
Now lets come to the cliché of the movie. Given that Zooni and her troupe of girls were in Delhi for only 5 days, how could one expect her to fall in love with Rehan in such a short time? I have seen a friend raise this question earlier too and honestly, I don’t have any logical reply to him. We see that when Rehan flirts with her, she responds to him. Zooni was a girl who had absolutely no contact with the outside world and her life was determined by her parents. Given the sense of independence Zooni felt in Delhi, she could not stop herself from interacting with Rehan in the first place. The gentle smiles on her face when Rehan was cracking his bad shayaris was evident of that. But given her background that was so well documented in the movie, one would be led to believe that a girl like her would take a long time to realize if she is in love with a guy or not. This doesn’t happen in this movie. The movie shows that she not only falls in love with Rehan but also decided to marry him after consent of her parents, all in the space of just 5 days. I think this is the cliché moment of the movie. Maybe perhaps because this happens in every other Hindi movie where the guy and the girl realize in a moment of passion that they are really in love and decide to marry.
It is from here on that the movie becomes predictable. The guy disappears, time flies, the girl has a son and then they reunite under difficult circumstances. What happens next too is predictable. You can actually predict the story of this movie from here on if you are an avid reader of novels. For example, I have been an avid Ken Follett reader and I found that parts of the story of this film are rip-offs from some of his stories. The difference in this case is that in Ken Follett’s novels, all the characters almost always have a well established background (like Zooni in this movie) while in this movie we are still open to question Rehan’s background. What do we really know of him? That he is a terrorist on a mission? That he only communicates with his so-called Nanajaan? Or that he is a Kashmiri? When Zulfi (Zooni’s father, played by Rishi Kapoor) questions Rehan about his background, he simply doesn’t have any answer. Part of it was due to the fact that he didn’t want to reveal to him that he was a terrorist. But the film doesn’t show anything about Rehan’s Kashmiri links. At one point Zooni herself questions him that after hearing so many lies from him how could she trust him. In the same way can we, the viewers, believe that he is a genuine Kashmiri?
Lets talk about the performances now. Kajol, as I said was simply brilliant. It is no use repeating that she was the ace of the movie. Aamir disappoints. He looks older in the first half and brazen and emotionless for a large part of the second half of the movie. Mr. Perfectionist falls flat on his face in front of Mrs. Talented. In his search for perfection, I believe Aamir has not achieved his full potential. I also felt that a part of his role resembled that of Rang De Basanti. His mannerisms, looks on his face, a dash of Punjabi accent all reminded us of RDB. But honestly speaking, I hated his shayari sessions with the girls in the first half. It nearly put me to sleep.
Rishi Kapoor looked apt for the role of the father of Zooni. He plays the role of a very emotional father but is never coming in the way of his daughter’s decisions. Kiron Kher likewise played the perfect mother. Tabu’s role as a psychologist with the Anti Terrorism Bureau is something that I did not like much because given the way she was making her comments and decisions, it almost looked like she was working on hunches rather than plain facts. I am not saying that she performed badly, I believe that her character was not developed in the script. I guess that had something to do with the fact that her appearance was very limited in the movie.
The film tended to slow down in the middle. It can be safely said that you can afford to sleep through one hour of the first half of the movie and then another half hour after the interval. The shayaris, the wah wahs, the subhan allahs all bored me to near-sleep. Another thing I felt was that the surprise factor was missing in the movie. Take for example, RDB had a surprise factor in it. The way they plan to kill the minister in RDB and the plan is executed in a flash acts as a surprise factor. Something similar should also have been there in Fanaa given the fact that it was a story based in Kashmir and a so-called Kashmiri terrorist was at the center of this story. But it never happens and as I wrote above, the moment the injured Rehan reaches Zooni’s house, the story becomes predictable. Had there been a surprise element, things could have been very different.
The music. Hmm, now this is something that I have already written about here. The picturization of most songs is beautiful. Watch Chand Sifarish and you won’t need to visit Delhi again. They have covered literally all the well known monuments of Delhi in this song, starting with the Qutub Minar and progressing to Old Fort, and so on. A few scenes here and there, and you will be able to watch the entire beautiful side of Delhi in just a few brief moments. Watch the beautiful landscapes of Poland in Mere Haath Mein while watch out for the chemistry between Aamir and Kajol in Dekho Na. Chanda Chamke may be a fun song but its tune is… oh well, thats repetition from my review of its music album. Des Rangila, the worst song of the album thankfully came at a time when my cell phone rang and I had to run out of the hall to attend the call.
A word about the director and the producer. I had a lot of regards for Kunal Kohli as a film critic but his works as a director have not been up to the mark barring Hum Tum. Fanaa fails to live up to my expectation given that it boasted of such a magnificent star cast. I felt at times that the acting talents of Aamir and Kajol could have been better exploited by some other more experienced director. As regards Yashraj films, I believe they should go back to making love triangles. It is their forte and Aditya Chopra should stop making films that are different per se and if he wants to become a producer, he must hire more talented directors to keep the Yashraj banner afloat. I wont call this film mediocre but yes certainly it could have been better. This is all I have to say about Fanaa – the movie.