Don't ask us why we hate Rishi. It's as mysterious as our love of Shashi. Actually, no, that's not true. There's nothing mysterious about our love for Shashi. For Shashi has those cute canines, those long eyelashes, that adorable way he cocks his head and lowers his eyes when he sings, "Bekhudi mein sanam!" Guh. Guuuuuuh.
But Rishi. God, he sucks. Hence our mild surprise when, sitting through the Dil Se-but-stupider Fanaa, we felt sparks of warmth for Rishi. Maybe the years have softened that
Editor from the future (December 2008): Why all this hate, past tense PPCC?! Why all this invective against poor, jolly Rishi Kapoor? No, no, no, this will not do. We take all of this back. Rishi is lovely.
The PPCC of December 2008 just cannot fathom what the PPCC of November 2007 was thinking.
There are other excellent actors and actresses in Fanaa. Kajol, for example, back from her years-long wedding/baby hiatus. Aamir Khan, well-regarded by critics and choosy in his roles. (We at the PPCC remain unmoved by him, but we recognize the appeal.) Tabu, recently rendered exportable by Mira Nair's golden touch in The Namesake. There are also the makings of an excellent plot in Fanaa: yet another provocative, terrorist love story, with sweeping shots of Mughal architecture and sweeping verses of Urdu ghazals. There are likable songs: our favorite being the Rangeela number, which is so bright and colorful. Sing, sing! And so on.
The Rangeela number.
Yet Fanaa falls flat. The change in mood at interval, when a light-and-fluffy romance between Kajol and Aamir's characters turns into an elaborate terrorist plot a la James Bond, is a bit too much to handle. As Filmi Geek says, it gets a bit masala - but without that certain something of masala charm (Amitabh?). It lacks the intelligence and subtlety of Dil Se, that classic of the terrorism-romance genre. It takes itself very seriously, but doesn't seem too sure of what it wants to say. Filmi Geek points out the plot holes (which, indeed, are pretty big), but we at the PPCC were more concerned with the confusion of Aamir's character. How passionate is Rehan about Kashmir? What does he think he's doing? It's not that these questions need to be answered; it's more that the film doesn't seem to acknowledge the inherent dilemma. Kajol's character, Zooni, is pretty clear about what she wants: some hot Rehan lovin', and, when she realizes he's a terrorist, the police. Rehan's line in the end: "Rehan loves you more than you love Rehan," is even more confusing. Is he thanking her? Accusing her? What the hell is going on?
We like it when Aamir twitches to the beat.
Briefly, the plot follows Zooni (Kajol), a blind, naive mountain girl from Kashmir, on her jolly jaunt to Delhi with her dancing troupe. There, she meets the ghazal-spouting tour guide Rehan (Aamir Khan), all long locks and Gap scarf, with more than a hint of misogyny... but no matter. Zooni and Rehan fall for each other, hard, and get married. Yet their happily-ever-after ends quickly after an explosion set off by Kashmiri terrorists and a new set of eyes for Zooni. As the interval bangs down on us, Rehan is revealed to be a terrorist, while the newly-sighted Zooni moves back to Kashmir, thinking herself a widow. Do you see the Hindi Irony building up here? It's inevitable! Soon enough, Zooni is treating a wounded soldier in her mountain cottage, not recognizing that it's Rehan, her purportedly dead husband. Apparently she doesn't recognize his voice, or smell, or touch.
But no matter.
It's difficult to judge the acting here, since there was such ambiguity in the character's motivations. Aamir is hard-assed enough, though we remained unconvinced by his supposed "weak" love for Zooni. But maybe that's because we always find him so cocky. Stupid Aamir. Where's Shashi? Where's SRK? Kajol is her usual, bright self, and she by far outshines Aamir in terms of charisma. We had to admit the whole blind person's self-deprecation thing made us a little uncomfortable though. We've already mentioned Rishi, who was oddly lovable, and of course Kirron Kher is always a pleasure. The only person who seemed at odds with her role was Tabu, as the leading investigator of the anti-terrorism unit. The music was good, but not great, with one children's song definitely deserving the chop. (Hey, we've got nothing against kids singing - see Aa Gale Lag Jaa.)