In most romantic comedies, those which Hollywood studios produce incessantly, buffed and veneered by the filtered light of Manhattan or Notting Hill, the resolution is always a neat, perfect knot. Rough edges smoothen, egos become plaint and there are inexplicable changes of heart. 2010 is the year Mumbai’s film directors embraced this easy and safe genre completely. But going by the movies we’ve watched so far—I Hate Love Storys, Anjaana Anjaani and Jhootha hi Sahi —we have not mastered the genre. In all these movies, the cosmetic trappings of the new Indian metro, saturated in brand gloss, overwhelming story, character and dialogue; disbelief becomes easy. The latest, Break ke Baad, directed by Danish Aslam and produced by Kunal Kohli, is another example.
We are with a 20-something couple, Abhay and Alia (Imran Khan and Deepika Padukone)—childhood sweethearts whose first kiss is while they watch Kuch Kuch Hota Hai. When they are adults, the innocence is tested. Locations and fortunes change; their relationship status is a toss between “in a relationship” and “it’s complicated”. Will it end in a wedding? It’s not a foregone conclusion, but by the time the climax approached, I was unmoved—relieved that the film has come to an end.
Break ke Baad begins with two believable characters, uninhibited in each other’s presence. They have watched Mr India and Kuch Kuch Hota Hai together, many times over. In their prime, Shah Rukh Khan’s outstretched arms are stuff of ridicule and fond nostalgia. Alia is impetuous (she binge-drinks, smokes cigars and wants to become an actress like her mother, played by Sharmila Tagore) and wants a break from the protective boyfriend, a dull young man who will do everything it takes to get closer to the happy ending. Alia leaves for Australia, Abhay follows her. They find themselves, with the help of three friends—all of them, overblown urban stereotypes.
There’s an innate charm to this couple’s intimacy, although strangely, the intimacy is bereft of any sexual spark (A sanitized lip-peck when they are about to part ways is an aberration).
The writers (Danish Aslam and Renuka Kunzru) etch the characters’ distinctiveness, but allow little room for real transformation until the end when things fall into place suddenly and illogically. Abhay remains the steadfast and moony lover to voluble and indecisive Alia. She wants the break away from the routine and take risks, but not risks which change her life or cause substantial pain.
There are no choreographed songs—one of the ways in which the director retains a contrived realism throughout. Most scenes, especially those meant to be humorous, come across as trite, barring those which involve a divorced aunt (played by Lilette Dubey) spouting blasé one-liners about love and seduction. According to her, multiple adaptations of Devdas have something to do with the softening of the modern Indian man. The writers of the film are obviously too caught up with how characters should appear rather than in their circumstances and emotions.
The performances in Break ke Baad, especially of the lead pair, save it from complete disaster. Khan is not an actor who can make transitions look easy; there’s a pouty smirk on his face through euphoria and rejection—an actor too conscious of his physical presence. Padukone plays her character better. As an actor, she has improved over the last few films. She makes Alia more believable than Abhay. The inner impulses of Alia, however flawed they inherently are in the script, are visible.
Break ke Baad is predictable, silly and blatantly illogical. Worse still, it is under the guise of a calculated coolness. Boring. Urban Indian rom-coms are yet to smack of any truth.
Break ke Baad released in theatres on Friday
Allah Ke Banday
In the margins
Yakub and Vijay grew up in Bhool Bhulaiya, a congested maze of shanties in Mumbai. Battling acute poverty and lured by cash, they bunk school and work as drug runners. Needing money to treat their ailing mother, and believing they can pull off a clever heist, they take on the local gangster. The plan goes awry and they end up in a remand home where they learn their greatest lessons in life and crime. In the 11 years of detention, under the controversial ‘tutelage’ of a corrupt and menacing warden (Naseeruddin Shah) they grow from boys to men.
On their release, Yakub (Faruk Kabir) and Vijay (Sharman Joshi) return to their old home with a new plan: to take on the local dons and, by using an army of children, become kings of Bhool Bhulaiya. It is their ultimate vengeance against the system that created them and against those that cheated them.
In Faruk Kabir’s Allah ke Banday, the action sequences are well executed, and slum locations are captured evocatively. But the film is overloaded with several unnecessary techniques, including an overused music track. Coupled with loose editing and some hammy performances, the pace slackens and the sentiment is diluted.
Kabir also dominates many scenes and Sharman Joshi, who plays the lead role, is left with little to do. The scene-stealer is Shah. Though he plays a brief role, his talent is no match for the rest of the cast. The scene in an Irani café between the older Shah and Joshi stands out as brilliant.
Kabir is the writer, director and one of the lead actors in his debut film. As a writer, he manages to put together an interesting script. Had he handed over the baton of director to someone more experienced, we might have seen a better crafted and well-performed film.