Film Review: Kurbaan

Kurbaan

Directed by: Rensil D’ Siliva

Starring: Saif Ali Khan, Kareena Kapoor, Vivek Oberoi, Kirron Kher, Om Puri, Dia Mirza and Nauheed Cyrisi

Dharma Productions seem to be on an aristeia (a winning streak) at the moment, as it seems whatever they do, they can’t do any wrong. Right from Kuch Kuch Hota Hai to Dostana last year, and then Wake Up Sid! this year, with respectable (often record breaking at the time) box office collections, universal critical acclaim or discussion at least,  it seems DP are gathering the kind of momentum that Yashraj Films and UTV Motion Pictures have enjoyed in recent years. And it looks like Kurbaan has all the elements to continue the trend.

Kurbaan is the story of Avantika (Kapoor) a university professor who is wooed by another professor Ehsaan (Khan). As she falls for his charms, Avantika is offered a teaching post in America, which Ehsaan convinces her to accept and the two marry and move to America. It seems as if Avantika has the best of both worlds – until she makes a discovery one day that will change the course of her life forever…

Kurbaan is a slick, well-packaged film that draws the viewer’s attention from the first frame and moves along at a brisk pace. Technically, the film is quite impressive, with a grainy realistic look maintained throughout the film (and an interesting opening credits sequence which neatly summaries the film’s theme), good editing (notice the fade to black punctuating the film – unusual and very welcome for Bollywood) and some very impressive camerawork – notice the long shots followed by close ups or the way the actors are placed off centre in some of the shots which adds to the realistic style of the film. Credit must also be given to the action sequences, which refrain from going over the top and create the desired impact of underlining the human cost of violence.

The DP touch is very evident in the film – we may not have the sweeping aerial shots of New York (though we do get a short welcome parade which reminded me of Kal Ho Naa Ho) but the super styled interiors are there, as is the carefully designed wardrobe for the film which works very well. Kareena Kapoor looks amazing in the film, working a sweater/paisley scarf/skirt/churidar combo in the first part of the film and sporting some amazingly applied eye make up and then later graduating to heavy knits and skinny jeans with dark eyeliner and looking equally stunning – we totally understand why Ehsaan is smitten with her. Eagle eyed viewers will also spot Kareena sporting some serious acrylic nails which appear and disappear at different junctions in the film.  The rest of the cast are also well styled – Saif looks good in his sweater/jean combos and sports a variety of man bags whilst Dia Mirza and Vivek are given simple but effective looks that make their characters believable. It’s worth noting all the styling starts off being noticeable but then slowly goes under the radar, which shows how in tune the styling is with the script – a DP speciality.

However, Kurbaan is not without its flaws – some of the storylines are not seen through to a natural conclusion such as Avantika’s father’s disapproval of Ehsaan, or the fact that an educated modern woman like Avantika would not fight the house arrest she is placed under more vociferously. Also, the film takes a rather shaky standpoint on the whole issue of Islam vs terrorism, sometimes unintentionally fuelling prejudices that some members of the audience may have and presenting a rather clinical view of the situation rather than getting into the topic in any depth – the terrorists are stock characters and parrot lines that have been heard in many a Hollywood film before. In the film’s defence, it does also show Muslims in positive light as we see with Vivek’s character, who is victimised, suffers loss and works to prevent death and destruction. There is also a heated debate in a classroom scene which highlights that the issue is not as one sided as it is made out to be. The film is more of a reflection of the situation but at times, the film would have been much stronger if it took up a standpoint from either side of a very controversial topic.

In terms of performances, Rensil D’Silva deserves a thump on the back for extracting some very good work from his actors. Saif Ali Khan is very good as Ehsaan, underplaying his character, injecting equal amounts of menace, helplessness and numbness into the role – it is easy to think he is not doing much but D’Silva really does rein in Saif’s energy to good effect. Kareena Kapoor is also very good in her role, giving an even performance and also keeping it understated. I was also pleased that she took a risk in this role, stepping out of her comfort zone for some scenes and channelling the inner actress that we saw in films like Dev and Omkara. Also, both Khan and Kapoor have an amazing chemistry on screen that is utilised well in the film and does not overwhelm the rest of the film – it will be interesting to see how their next film together works out.

Vivek Oberoi is very good in his supporting role as Riyaaz, pulling off an impressive American accent and really becoming as one with his role. He also manages to portray all the different shades of his character well and I also liked his on screen chemistry with Khan and Kapoor (clearly carrying on that Omkara vibe). Om Puri is issued with a stock role but to his credit, plays it with simplicity and dignity. Kirron Kher plays yet another matriarch but really attacks the role and makes it her own – her character reminded me of her performance in Khamosh Pani (highly recommended!) and though it may be a role she has done before, Kirron still shows herself as a seasoned actress. Surprisingly, Dia Mirza and Nauheed Cyrisi are also noteworthy in their brief cameos and give good accounts of themselves.

I enjoyed Kurbaan and liked it for the fact that not only is it an entertaining film but it is also a film that the viewer cannot remain indifferent to. Whether it is the political aspect or the emotional impact the film makes, I was drawn into the film and even after watching it, am still thinking about certain scenes and nuances – always a good sign. This is definitely worth a watch and particularly for the occasional Bollywood viewer. Recommended.

(Previously posted on www.gorafied.com on 20th November 2009)

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