Good intentions may not result in a good film
Lagaan’s Bhuvan, Swades’ Mohan Bhargava, Jodhaa and Akbar are some of the most memorable characters seen in the Indian cinema in the last decade. All these characters were created and brought alive by the same man, Ashutosh Gowarikar who became one of the most sought after filmmakers because of these characters and films. This is where the director fails with his latest offering, Khelein Hum Jee Jaan Sey (KHJJS). The film’s screenplay is adapted by Gowarikar himself from the book, ‘Do and Die’ by Manini Chatterjee, which is based on the Chittagong (in Bengal) Uprising of 1930. KHJJS presents the facts and happenings that led to the historical incident and what happened after that. In trying to cover these events with so many characters, the filmmaker does not focus on a few leading ones and as a result you do not connect with any as a viewer. It is not that he does not set the context but he tries to do that with all the characters and there are over twenty-five of them.
If Surjya Sen (Abhishek Bachchan) is the central character, then very little time is spent on building his story; it is revealed in the beginning that he is the leader of a freedom fighters’ group but in the rest of the film he just appears in between the sequences passing orders or looking somber. Kalpana Dutta (Deepika Padukone) is another revolutionary but again it seems that the director forgets about her in the middle of the film. If only some time was spent on developing these two characters, probably one would have related to them more. What kind of people were they; were they angry or scared or hurt at different occasions; all that is left to the viewers to decide. The uprising began with a group of sixteen teenagers approaching Surjya Sen to help them get their play-ground back, which the British soldiers had taken over. They want the freedom to play and in the bargain willing to help free Chittagong and the country. The first half of the film is all about introducing all these characters and them getting ready for the attacks on British establishments; the second half focuses on the attack and then what happens to each of the characters. Despite the two-hour fifty-five minute running time, the film does not do justice to any of them and makes for a tedious watch. The good thing about the film is that not many people were aware of the Chittagong uprising and it has helped create that awareness; however as an entertainer the film does not work.
Performance wise, Abhishek and Deepika are very average and from the rest of the grown up supporting cast, only Vishakha Singh who plays Pritilata shines; Sikander Kher as Nirmal Sen is also fine except he doesn’t have many impactful scenes. The teenagers are very good and are the only ones you feel connected to, more because of their innocent motive and age.
Music by Sohail Sen is not very memorable and the only song you remember is the title track as that got played in the promos all the time. In the technical department also you do not see anything spectacular, cinematography is fine (Kiran Deohans) while editing is abrupt at times (Dilip Deo). Neeta Lulla’s costumes seem sponsored by a washing powder brand as they are very clean and white for the most part. Imagine a group of teenagers playing football and their dhotis stay absolutely white! However, in one scene you can notice a deliberate ink stain on Abhishek’s kurta as he is shown writing on his desk. The only thing that comes to your mind is, “Daag acche hain”. The dialogues are in flawless Hindi with the actors using a few odd Bengali words here and there and pronouncing ‘a’ as ‘o’ while taking names. Of course the film could not have been in Bengali keeping in mind the commercial aspect but at least their manner of speaking Hindi could have been adopted well. Maybe they really spoke good Hindi back then but am not aware so would not comment any further.
KHJJS is not what I’d like to remember Gowarikar for and like his last year’s disastrous film, What’s Your Rashee? I’d like to forget this one also. I hope the director of Oscar nominated Lagaan comes back with a film worthy of this tag.
My rating: * * ½ Two and a half stars on five
– Shrey Khetarpal