Tuesday, 22 April 2008

DVD review: Aetbaar


I knew what I was getting into when I bought this: it's a John Abraham film where he plays a very bad Badboy indeed, and the movie has been panned by the critics.

Plot first: Ria (Bipasha Basu) is a carefree college girl with a very protective father, Ranveer (Amitabh Bachchan), who wants to be with her every possible moment. (Note that the glaring Freudian undertones are never addressed by the film but are painfully obvious to the British viewer who'll have an inbuilt mistrust of father-daughter intimacy.) She bumps into badboy biker Aryan (John Abraham) and he falls for her instantly. She soon returns his passion, since she is "listening to her heart" (or at least some bodily organ not known for rational judgment). Ranveer mistrusts Aryan, and finds out he has in fact killed his father. Ria accepts Aryan's story that his father was an alcoholic who murdered his mother, and refuses to ditch him. Ranveer does some digging, finds out that this was a pack of lies and sets Aryan up to demonstrate this to Ria. She dumps him, he tries to kill her, daddy saves the day.

Okay, so I bought this DVD because I think John Abraham is hot - and there he does not disappoint. He looks good whether wet with sweat, rainwater or blood. He is also pretty damn good in the role, switching between brooding rage, charm and suffering at the drop of a hat. Bipasha only gets one scene where she can do any proper acting, but otherwise looks beautiful. Amitabh does staunch, heroic and benevolent with his usual effectiveness.

The film isn't let down by its cast, but by the ham-fisted direction - which goes out of its way to excise any dramatic tension or ambiguity from the story. For example, there's a brothel scene early on that firmly establishes that Aryan isn't just a bit intense; he's madder than a burning box of ferrets. It would have been so much more effective if he could have charmed the viewer first, only later for his madness to be revealed. There's a scene where he's pursuing a woman with dangerous intent which could be quite dramatic - only the director reveals halfway through that it is all a set-up and Ranveer is in control of the situation. The suggestion that Aryan might have serious, erm, "anger management issues" due to a horrible childhood is swiftly knocked on the head as too nuanced: hell, he's just an evil psycho. And if you're in a Bollywood film and your mother disowns you, well then you know there's no hope for you!

Of course the ironic thing is that Ria falls for a possessive, intrusive, obsessive boyfriend precisely because he is her father writ larger and sexier.

I was also personally disappointed because more than any other Bollywood film I've watched, this one smacked of a US film remade with Indian actors. There was no real sense of any Indian-ness about it. The musical numbers were half-hearted. The street scenes looked like sets.

So, overall, not one to watch for its worth as a film, but on your own so you can enjoy the eye-candy in peace.

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