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Terrorism gets in the way

Fanaa Director: Kunal Kohli Cast: Aamir Khan, Kajol, Tabu, Rishi Kapoor, Kirron Kher, Lara Dutta, Lillette Dubey 6.5/10 The Da Vinci Code Director: Ron Howard Cast: Tom Hanks, Audrey Tautou, Ian McKellan, Jean Reno, Paul Bettany, 6/10

The Telegraph Online   |   Published 02.06.06, 12:00 AM

Fanaa

Director: Kunal Kohli

Cast: Aamir Khan, Kajol, Tabu, Rishi Kapoor, Kirron Kher, Lara Dutta,

Lillette Dubey

6.5/10

Blind kashmiri girl Zooni (Kajol) falls for charming tourist guide Rehaan (Aamir) on a trip to Delhi when her dance troupe is invited to perform at Rashtrapati Bhavan on Republic Day. The two of them connect instantly and intensely with heavy-duty sher--shaayari and light-hearted flirtation. And as they manage to steal amorous glances ? well, he steals glances and she steals his heart ? and moments of togetherness, much song and dance, romance, passion and love-making happen. With happening charisma and chemistry between the lead pair.

But love is truly blind. And before she can see him for what he really is (he arranges for her to have eye surgery to restore her vision), he is supposedly killed in a devastating bomb blast in the capital. And that’s pretty much how director Kunal Kohli ends Fanaa’s first half and loses the love story?well, until the latter half of the film’s second half, when Kajol comes back on screen, thank God.

Because meanwhile the film suddenly becomes quasi-realistic and pseudo-serious with Aamir resurfacing as a dreaded terrorist ? well, actually victim of brainwash (remember Manisha Koirala in Mani Ratnam’s Dil Se?), a puppet of his grandfather Nanajaan’s extremist ideology and obsessive ambition to ‘free Kashmir’. And suddenly from chaand-sitaare, ishq-mohabbat type love lingo, the film becomes all about coded messages, nuclear missiles, triggers, conspiracy theory, CBI, FBI, RAW intelligence, crossborder terrorism, threat to democracy kind of high funda and technical jargon stuff spewed by high-powered government officials and police-armed forces nexus trying to bust organised anti-national crime.

But somehow despite amazing Aamir’s presence and acting hectivity, you crave respite from boring lingering scenes and dead storyline and just wish you could get back to the prem-kahaani.

And when Kajol finally returns to the screenplay, the film comes back to life, and you realise that she couldn’t have asked for a better ‘comeback’ vehicle because Fanaa shows off her fantastic ability to ride the spectrum of her own acting arc. From spontaneous natural to performance that’s matured not only with the graph of this film, but also with that of her career thus far.

Mandira Mitra

Crack the hype

The Da Vinci Code

Director: Ron Howard

Cast: Tom Hanks, Audrey Tautou, Ian McKellan, Jean Reno, Paul Bettany,

6/10

Show, don’t tell ? it’s a rule good suspense films religiously follow. The film version of Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code was always going to be an exception, given the nature of the source material. But unlike what many might have suspected, Ron Howard’s film does not suffer on account of its verbosity. The problem is with the director’s stilted storytelling, one that turns an opus variously described as “a pulse-quickening, brain-teasing adventure” and a “brilliant mix of murder and myth” into a celluloid adaptation with much scope for improvement.

The big question in the minds of those wanting to watch The Da Vinci Code would be whether it is necessary to read the book to understand the film. Yes, if you want to grasp the story in its entirety. Nobody likes the feeling of walking out of the theatre not knowing what certain moments in a film were about. Howard does not make things easy for those unfamiliar with the book, never mind the lengthy expositions that lead the audience through a murder in the hallowed Louvre and into the core of the “greatest cover-up in history” ? one involving Christian cults, curious symbols and vintage artwork.

The interesting moments in the film are surprisingly those in which the director breaks the shackles, so to speak, to add value to Brown’s story. Tom Hanks’ introductory scene ? playing Harvard professor Robert Langdon, he is shown delivering a tongue-in-cheek lecture on the meaning of symbols ? is a delightful one, as is Ian McKellan’s (in the role of “Holy Grail” expert Leigh Teabing) dissection of The Last Supper for the benefit of a gaping Audrey Tautou (as cryptologist Sophie Neveu).

As a thriller, The Da Vinci Code strangely has a staccato rhythm to it. The film almost comes to a halt when the flashbacks are shown, and there are many of them. When it does move forward, Tom appears too passive a code-breaker to be alive to the intensity of the moment. Much has been written about the Oscar winner not being the perfect Langdon, and the criticism has not just been about his hairstyle. He actually appears a bit flat and it doesn’t help that his partner, Audrey, looks confused for the most part and far from the feisty woman portrayed in the novel. It is left to McKellan to infuse energy into the proceedings and he does a swell job. But for a film that came with so much hype and hoopla, this Da Vinci ought to have been more than a few inspired performances and interesting scenes, if not a masterpiece.

Ritu Parna Dutta



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