We at the PPCC are highly appreciative of actors who can melt down like steel at high temperatures. We like to see The Flip-Out, that moment when he or she just loses it completely - flailing, yelling, havoc-making. Our best-of-the-best, Toshiro Mifune, used to go all frenzied on enemy samurai. Hayaaaaaaah! Dil Se's Shah Rukh Khan won our hearts with that fight scene in the sewer - he was at 200%! And the reason we can't get off the Anil Kapoor All the Time train, no matter how hard we try, is because - happy surprise! - the man is just so good at flipping out. And Pukar is just one, long flip-out. Usually a character flips out only after he or she's reached the end of his tether. Well, in Pukar, Anil reaches the end of his pretty early... with Madhuri following close behind! So most of the film is just watching these two charismatic actors go demented, again... and again... and again... Enjoy! We know we did!
At the top...
...and at the bottom.
Pukar is essentially the story of an angry, young
At the top (and incidentally, YAY OM PURI!!!)...
...and at the bottom.
Poor Anjali, rather than picking herself up and gathering the pieces of her heart off the floor with some dignity, quickly spirals into Medea-esque spurned-and-insane-now destructiveness. Lured by the Mississippi Masala Uncle - who, by the way, looks a lot like our beloved Giancarlo Giannini at certain angles; and is, in the film, in cahoots with the evil Ambhrush - Anjali steals some military code from Jai and basically succeeds in ruining his life. Her plan to hurt him works a little better than expected - as the beauty queen, military glory, joie de vivre, raison d'etre and sobriety flee from Jai like... uh, something that flees from something else very quickly. Hindus from a beef buffet? New Year's Resolutions from the PPCC?
Anyway, the rest of the film is just one protracted meltdown at maximum voltage, with a hasty patch-up cobbled together for the required "happy ending". Though honestly, everything that does go wrong, can go wrong to Jai and Anjali, so the only reason we think they're smiling in the end is because they've finally completely lost their minds.
Check out that fabulous composition! The ladder's diagonal, the rough texture of the stone wall, and poor Anjali dwarfed by the size of her HUGE, exponentially-expanding problems.
Even though this wasn't a very profound film in terms of content, it was very well-done in several ways. The music, as we said, was absolutely divine. It was so good, even Lata ji shows up in a rare on-screen appearance. It was so good that - we kid you not - the PPCC actually loved the song Kismat Se Tum from long ago, before having seen a single Hindi film. Yes, it was that good. It crossed temporal borders and went BACK IN TIME to make us love it! Many of the compositions were striking - with excellent colors, textures and lines. The choreography in the "love is great, no, love sucks" dance-off was inspired.
And the acting!
Well, Anil himself thinks and others agree that this is his "best performance ever" - and nota bene that he won the National Award for Best Actor in this. What can we say? This is probably one of the few films that amply showcases his very wide range - from the comedy with Pooja's mom ("My daughter won't marry an army man. You should probably just leave.") to the crazy (yay!) to the bad-ass to the romping around on icebergs and singing love duets. But hey - we don't need National Awards or Pukar or Anil himself to tell us how talented he is. We know, dude, we know.
Anyway, Anil's notable scene which has been mentioned by others and yet more others is - similar to Mashaal's - the drunken breakdown scene, with its forced smiles, tenuously hidden despair and the Amitabh Bachchan sweaty, tearful drunk face (except done right this time). Vah! But what made that scene really heartwrenching was... Madhuri! Oh, Madhuri. Poor Madhuri. When she gives Anil his roti parcel (stuffed with cold, unmicrowaved GUILT) and then watches him eat it and CRIES quietly, we at the PPCC felt like the movie had just blended our dil into a Frappe of Woe.
Where have all the charismatic heroines gone? Madhuri has the difficult task of maintaining sympathy for a character that the script didn't seem to know whether to make a villain or anti-heroine or what, and yet she succeeds. Not only is Anjali likable, even during all the ups and downs, she's also got three dimensions. We understand, little by little, just how important her childhood sweetheart has become in her life, and her hurt at being quickly dismissed in favor of some "plastic girl" was all too painful to watch. Her scenes of desperation and bad ideas were heart-breaking! Even when she went all crazy lady, we couldn't get angry, we were just disappointed.
Another movie where the most unexpectedly affecting scene was when someone ate.
A lot of other good actors show up - Om Puri was a very welcome surprise, and Danny Denzongpa was wonderfully evil - but this film, once again - belongs to Anil, Madhuri and Anil/Madhuri.
Alas, apart from a very good slice of melodrama, the film makes plenty of silly mistakes. The characterizations are uniformly superficial and everyone seems motivated by... well, it's a mystery. Ambhrush is evil because he just... is evil. He hates India because... well, he does. Anjali likes Jai... because she does, and Jai doesn't respond to Anjali's initial advances because... Oh well, you get the idea. And no one seems to have second thoughts or self-doubt - excepting, of course, Anjali (but you'd be having second thoughts too if people are starting to throw their shoes - that's a pretty blunt message!). We were ready to forgive these paper-thin characters since the plot was just rootin' tootin' along like a steam train, but then things started dragging in the second half and there were enough logical inconsistencies in the climax (why did Jai's parents attend the ceremony? why did Jai threaten to blow someone up in order to stop people from blowing up?) that we eventually went, "Oh, come on now." Also, hairy ethical moments: We didn't much care for all the hawkish India/Pakistan warmongering (Jai and Abhrush spend way too much time trash-talking each other's countries), and the gender relations were pooh. That is, this movie failed Mo's Movie Measure big time - I mean, as perversely fascinating and fun as it is to watch people get a little crazy about their crush, it was just disappointing to see Anjali's entire characterization built around her obsession with Jai. Massive HMMM! of Feminist Disapproval.