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Review: Black and White

Subhash Ghai attempts to reflect the realpolitik at a juncture when entertainment is equated with trouser-dropping farce and smutty sexual innuendo, writes Khalid Mohamed.
Hindustan Times | By Khalid Mohamed, Mumbai
UPDATED ON MAR 12, 2008 12:31 PM IST

Black and White
Cast: Anil Kapoor, Anurag Sinha
Direction: Subhash Ghai
Rating: ***

What, no khalnayaks! No ding-dong-baby-sing-a-song gaayaks! In his three-decade old innings, for once he doesn't make you feel like a top, spinning yawn and yawn. He actually gets real, switching from polyester to cotton, Dr Dang to alleyway bozos, and from those hokum havelis to the warrens of Delhi's Chandni Chowk.

Welcome to Subhash Ghai's Black and White, in which the Fuhrer of flamboyance takes a break to express his social concerns. That, in itself, is a momentous event. It's like Manmohan Desai doing a Coolie ko Gussa Kyon Aata Hai or an Abbas-Mustan, a Baazi- gar ka Saatwan Ghoda.

Indeed, any attempt to reflect the realpolitik, is entirely supportable - particularly at a juncture when entertainment is equated with trouser-dropping farce and smutty sexual innuendo. Initial collections guaranteed. Reality for Ghai is terrorism versus secularism. As long as even a couple of scenes arouse that fast-fading spirit of humaneness, nationalism and oneness, the mission is accomplished.

To put it plainly, the director's intentions are to be garlanded. The execution and approach, however, leave you somewhat baffled. Huh duh. Surely, the director could have opted for a true life story - there are thousands waiting to be told - instead of bunging together elements from Hollywood's Devil's Own (1997).

The Harrison Ford-Brad Pitt movie has already inspired snatches of Mission Kashmir.

And salaam alaikum, the business about gaining entry into the Red Fort on August 15 has already been sampled in Fanaa. This me-too lapse was as avoidable as the screen- play's simpering romantic angle exhibiting a dupatta-clad Husna Bano-type. Haai daiyya, she flips for a guy faster than the time it takes to cook sheer khorma. If you're impressed by this zoom-in on a suicide bomber (Anurag Sinha), it's because it touches upon that rarely-discussed aspect of fanaticism. Besides seeking revenge for his dead parents, the Afghanistan-trained fanatic is so steeped in his faith, that he can gun down a fellow-conspirator for boozing.

His indifference towards the Husna Bano is also believable, and so is his stealth in remaining mint-cool - whether he's being interrogated by the police or lounging around the mean gullies. Clearly, the most compassionate moments are shared between the terrorist and his inadvertent protector, the genial Urdu professor (Anil Kapoor).

Despite the protests of his rather overwrought NGO wife (Shefali Shah), the professor treats the boy as his surrogate son. The lecturer's warm moments of intimacy with his wife and his absolute innocence even in the face of tragedy, arouse your empathy. So does a sub-plot about a crusty, purani Delhi poet (stage legend Habib Tanvir, marvellous), who finds at least a smidgen of recognition for his verses before succumbing to the horrifying conspiracies in his mohalla.

Quite a few of the supporting characters could have been more sharply etched, like the other terrorists, be it the fixers (Milind Gunaji puzzled) or the financiers (Gent wearing vibgyor angoothis). Also a few implausibility factors rankle: a staged gunfire at Qutb Minar doesn't evoke half a police inquiry .

The screenplay largely works in the bomber's Judas-like betrayal of the professon with the climax being a classic nail-biter .

The wrap-up, is gratifyingly convincing instead of offering any raspberry syrup solutions. Technically, the cinematography is inconsistent - moody at times, and over lit at others. The editing pattern is often strange - a tea-drinking session is cut clumsily and so are the sequences featuring the expectedly ineffective law force. Plus there are some antiquated transition shots.

Sukhwinder Singh's music is okay, ditto the dialogue. Eventually, all pros and cons weighed, you do wish that Ghai travels the same route again, perhaps with a more steely, crusading spirit. Of the cast, Shefali Shah is unusually hammy, often screaming like hard rockers Led Zeppelin.

Newcomer Anurag Sinha, a Film Institute graduate, is confidence personified, an A-grade discovery. He has that combo of intensity and flexibility required of a star-actor Bankably, Anil Kapoor is appealing.

Here's one of his most nuanced and memorable performances. In fact, he gives all the right shades to Black and White. Worth a look for viewers who care more for their conscience than their popcorn.

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