Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Aamir - When the Leader is Led

Twenty minutes into Aamir, Raj Kumar Gupta's impressive directorial debut, we see the protagonist – Aamir – getting stuck in a traffic jam and, in his desperation to reach the destination defined by the abductors of his family, he gets down from the taxi and takes it on himself to smoothen out the traffic. Within minutes, he is in complete control of the situation. Ironically, at this very moment he is losing control over his own life.

चिराग़ कब तक यहाँ जलेगा ये कौन जाने
हवा की रफ़्तार तय करेगी जले कि हो गुल

Here we have a free-thinking man who believes in writing his own destiny…

हमको करेगा ये जहाँ अन्जाम से आगाह क्या
जिसको हो मन्ज़िल की ख़बर वो होगा फिर गुमराह क्या

Someone who knows exactly what he wants….

है ऐतिमाद जिनको न ताले’अ शिनास पर
जेहाद-ए-ज़िन्दगी में वो मन्सूर होते हैं

But, someone is hell-bent on taking control over his destiny and making him do things that his rational mind would never endorse. Aamir - the leader - is being led now!

Traffic under control, but Aamir – an educated, secular-minded Muslim – is getting hopelessly sucked into the irrational world of Islamic fundamentalism. Like Orwell's Big Brother, his seemingly ubiquitous tormentor keeps a close tab on every move of his, and sends him on a mindless 'treasure-hunt' through the most squalid bylanes of Mumbai, with the objective of opening his eyes to the dichotomy that exists within the community – uneducated vs. educated, poor vs. financially sound, independent minded vs. easily manipulated. The idea being - if Aamir sees the pitiable condition of his 'brethren', he would not feel any remorse in accomplishing the mission he has been put on.

Aamir is one of the better efforts of filmmaking in recent times. Many films have been made on the subject of Islamic fundamentalism, but in most cases – like the recent Black & White – these films end up sounding like a sermon, their preachy-ness in fact turns counterproductive. Where Aamir scores is that the entire film is structured as a thriller – and a very good thriller at that. So you get the 'message' without getting a feeling of being talked down. A few minutes into the film I was completely engrossed in Aamir's ordeal, and as the film accelerated to its climax – a predictable but truly heart-rending one – I was completely bowled over.

हो जल्वागर कुछ देर तक फिर राख में तब्दील हो
क़िस्मत में है हस्ती-ए-फ़ानी एक अदद चिन्गारी की

If one were to look at the various aspects of the film, almost everything seems just right for the script. The camerawork is simply superb, as is the wonderful background score. The songs have also been used very well, my favourite being Ha Raham Farma Aye Khuda – a Sufi Qawwali.

Rajeev Khandelwal as Aamir is impressive. If I'm saying this, it must mean a lot because I simply hated him as Sujal in Ekta Kapoor TV Serial – Kahin To Hoga. However, I would wait for a few more films before calling him a good actor. Who knows he might as well follow the footsteps of Vivek Oberoi and Shiney Ahuja, who impressed me hugely in their first film and then the cracks began to show!!

There has been enough debate about how Aamir is 'plagiarized' from Cavite (2005). If Anurag Kashyap (the film's "Creative Producer") says it isn't, I would take his word. Yet my rational mind is unable to understand how two ideas coming from two different parts of the world can have such uncanny resemblance. I guess I need to watch Cavite now!