Fanaa: The Death of Sensibility

by vpundir | June 24th, 2006

Fanaa means destroyed (or destruction) or dead (or mortality/death). As is the case with poetry, here the word is used in the sense of sacrificing oneself to the extent of complete destruction (yes, I do notice the redundancy of “complete” here).

The movie is about (you guessed it) love and sacrifice. And as it quite explicitly labors to convey, it is also about making difficult decisions; choosing between the right and the wrong is easy, but choosing the better among good paths and the proper among the wrong options, that’s what defines our lives.

So far, so good. To start off on a high note, Shibani Bathija’s story is quite good, and had a lot of potential. And writing stories is what she should stick to, as her screenplay is a wreck. Kunal Kohli’s dialog is mostly just plain bad and bombastic. I did get one gem, though: Insaan ki khwahish ki koi intihaan nahi, do ghaz zameen chahiye do ghaz qafan ke baad (There’s no limit to man’s desire; he wants six-feet of land after getting six-feet of coffin).

Some people might say that Kunal Kohli earned his spots in direction with Hum Tum, but judging from this film, I’d say he should dump his megaphone. Film-direction is not his cup of tea. This movie is pretentious, inadequately prepped, and tackily treated. And there are some rather glaring inconsistencies too. For instance, in the latter half of the movie “the storm” stops for some work, and for a song, but Rehan, who supposedly had been stalled by the storm, doesn’t get on with his mission. The storm itself is badly executed – from a mean, long snowstorm, one would expect at least knee-high snow on ground, and a thick layer of snow on porch railings and windows. Guess what? No shovelling required at all!

Nobody ever explains how Zulfiqer Ali Beg figures out that the “electronic part” in Rehan’s jacket is a “nuclear missile trigger”. Similarly, why Zooni, with newly-gained eyesight, is asked to identify Rehan’s body, remains a mystery. There were so many people – the coworkers, the girls, and presumably the neighbors – Rehan was supposed to know well and weren’t called in, that one just has to wonder how much thought and effort the director actually put into pre-production.

The attempt to create an FBI-CIA sort of jurisdiction tension between Bureau of Military Intelligence and RAW is totally lame. And there is no depth in the characters of RAW psychologist Tyagi and BMI Anti-terrorist unit chief Sushil Rawal, or even in the operations and methods of these agencies. The comparison of the terrorist organization IKF to CIA, KGB, Mossad and RAW is simply ludicrous.

The action scenes are the worst. The filmmakers’ attempts to rip-off classy action-sequences from films like the James Bond movie The World is Not Enough come across, at best, as poor imitations, and rather hokey to be frank. Rehan’s invincibility is reminiscent of Tauheed’s in Hindustan Ki Kasam. Now, I have no problems with the protagonist being an incredibly good fighter, and almost invincible. But to achieve that effect, the scenes have to be shot right; this movie’s presentation is ridiculous, and I draw the line at unconvincing. And I won’t even bother to divine why, when the chopper has to be shot down in the climax, the honors are done by the RAW psychologist, not some army sharpshooter.

For most part the movie takes a very predictable path. Let me be clear here: I have nothing against predictability. There have been many movies that have taken the beaten path and yet proven to be delightfully entertaining. But almost by definition, a mystery or a thriller can not be a good movie if the viewers can anticipate what’s going to happen next.

Quick comment on production design: Not good. One example: The looks for Aamir’s two avatars are clearly “inspired” by Hrithik Roshan’s double-role in Kaho Naa Pyaar Hai. But plagiarism was never a sin in the Indian film industry.

This movie is about as realistic and convincing as the Sunny Deol-strarrer The Hero. And the music of The Hero was better. Which is a pity since The Hero’s music was no great shakes while Yashraj Films’ productions have typically had exceptionally good music that goes on to become super popular. Not here, though; Jatin-Lalit’s score is uninspired, and the only tunes worth humming are the ones “borrowed” from previous hits.

The acting is above average. Kirron Kher and Rishi Kapur are appropriately cast as Zooni (Kajol)’s parents. They deliver convincing performances, as has come to be expected of them. Kajol is a complete misfit as a Kashmiri girl, but her acting somewhat makes up for this casting error. Aamir Khan was probably the right choice for the role of Rehan. Unfortunately, his acting oscillates between the extremes. For the most part, he is Aamir Khan. But occasionally, and not very often, he magically dives into the soul of the character, and then the result is mesmeric. Tabu and Sharat Saxena are miscast, given underdeveloped characters, and made to look like idiots. They do whatever is expected of them, but don’t you look for stellar performances; you aren’t about to get any. Jaspal Bhatti is in for one joke, and is completely wasted. You won’t even notice Lara Dutta. Master Ali Haji playing Rehan Jr., is a disappointment. Normally, child-artistes deliver performances even better than seasoned professionals; this performance is one of the worst I have ever seen on screen.

Don’t get me wrong. Fanaa does have its moments. The climax scene where Rehan turns around to shoot Zooni is one of them, however clichéd and predictable it might be (not to mention badly shot). But here’s the problem of this movie: As a thriller, it never makes you slip to the edge of your seat; as a drama, it never touches your heart and soul.

Final verdict? Fanaa just about slips through the cracks to qualify as barely watchable.

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