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    Dec 2009

    Default Aashayein - Movie Review

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    U/A; Drama
    Dir: Nagesh Kukunoor
    Cast: John Abraham, Sonal Sehgal, Anaitha Nair, Girish Karnad, Farida Jalal, Prateeksha Lonkar
    Rating: ***

    What it's about:

    Sometimes, the most effective communication is achieved through the simplest of narratives. When most directors say their film is different, you know it is a spin. But Nagesh Kukunoor has been rather consistent. From Hyderabad Blues, Iqbal, Teen Deewarein to Rockford and Dor (Bombay To Bangkok and 8X10 Tasveer have been the stray exceptions), he's often taken inspiration from his own experiences and that's what makes his films look real. Aashayein is about a gambler Rahul (John Abraham) who on the night on his biggest win, passes out after proposing to his waitress girlfriend Nafisa (Sonal Sehgal). 24 hours later, he learns that he has barely three months to live, as he is diagnosed with lung cancer. Even as he is coming to terms with the sad news, Nafisa suggests they get married. Not wanting to leave her a widow, he quietly steals away into the night with a backpack to a hospice for terminal patients. Here, he befriends other patients as they all move towards their inevitable end. How Rahul eventually ends up changing everyone's lives (including his own) forms the crux of the film.

    What's good:

    Nagesh manages to tell a tender and moving story. Yes, it's about cancer and no, it isn't morbid. You witness the impending death and physical deterioration of the patients but there is something so calm and measured about the proceedings (perhaps the way the patients deal with the inevitable) that it keeps you assured the end won't be cruel. The director interweaves fantasy and reality beautifully. At no point is the screenplay patronizing or contrived; it is gently told story without excess sentimentality. The characters' positions seem understandable and sympathetic - like the girlfriend who won't give up on her dying lover; the businessman with throat cancer (Girish Karnad) and the 17-year-old Padma (Anaitha Nair) suffering from lymphoma. Even while he tells a tragic tale, the director's having a lot of fun by using classics as reference points - the patients watching Rajesh Khanna-starrer Anand; the open ending of the film is reminiscent of Jaya Bhaduri's Mili, and the entire tribute to Indiana Jones. The highlight of the film is the way Nagesh establishes the relationship between Rahul and Padma - it brings forth the most poignant moments. The film makes you want to believe in miracles and the ending brings a smile to your face even. Nagesh extracts some brilliant performances from his cast. Anaitha Nair is a scene-stealer and her rebellious act is just perfect. Her humour is wicked, her attitude brash, and her helplessness; real. John Abraham delivers his most sensitive and restrained performance. He gets extra points for attaching his "movie star presence" to this 'small' film and believing in it. By the end of the film, he's so deep in his character (and I say this because the film was shot in a linear first scene-to-last manner) that it's only Rahul you relate to and not his off-screen persona. It's commendable how he has done even the physical transformation (from fit-to-frail) just to get his part right.

    What's not:

    Nagesh needed to spruce up the film's pace; maybe a bit of trimming would've done the trick. The script could've been tighter with no space for errors or questions. For example, there is a certain amount of confusion with regard to the hospice. The management claims they're short on funds and they can't take new patients because it's unaffordable. Yet, the place looks fancier than a five-star holistic spa. The prostitute suffering from AIDS (Farida Jalal) always looks dolled up ready to hit the next wedding baraat; even her eventual connection with Rahul is unexplained. There are no finishing touches to Anaitha's friction with her parents either. The director tries to bridge in these gaps with his soulful songs and interplay of scenes within them but the effort is not convincing. The soundtrack is super but strangely hasn't been promoted at all

    What to do:
    Give this life-affirming movie a chance. If you believe in hope, you'll like this one.
    ...being a human...



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