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Confident newcomers make 'Woodstock Villa' worth watching (Review)

Film: 'Woodstock Villa'; Cast: Sikandar Kher, Neha Uberoi, Arbaaz Khan, Gulshan Grover; Director: Hansal Mehta; Ratings: **1/2

Saturday, May 31, 2008 | 3:23:49 PM IST (+05:30 GMT)
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Film: 'Woodstock Villa';

Cast: Sikandar Kher, Neha Uberoi, Arbaaz Khan, Gulshan Grover;

Director: Hansal Mehta; Ratings: **1/2

The image of the leading lady in our cinema has changed beyond recognition. Barely months after watching Bipasha Basu sleep her way to success in 'Race' and weeks after Kareena Kapoor in 'Tashan' showed us it's okay for a small-town girl to covet a big villa in Vermont, we now have the ultra-confident semi-debutante Neha Uberoi (she had done a bit part in 'Dus Kahaniyan') walking away from the mess she partly created with a bagful of money in 'Woodstock Villa'.

But she doesn't get away with it altogether because the hero played by Sikandar Kher turns out to be smarter, shrewder and more ruthless than the lady who doesn't believe in glancing backwards.

'Woodstock Villa' isn't a great work of art. It doesn't aspire to be. Its affectations in visuals, treatment, background score and characterisation are so nakedly unsheathed and freed of the elements of realism that the posturing becomes a form of artlessness.

The film has a specific look and style. Granite walls, rusted floors, screaming desires and smothered conscience ... what would a Sanjay Gupta production be without these?

Vikash Nowlakha Anshum's cinematography and Wasiq Khans' art design bring a sense of imminent peril into the plot as though the characters were framed against a wall that separates humanity from doom.

Hansal Mehta's films, especially that underrated ode to Chinese actioners - 'Chhal', have always been created on the editing table. Bunty Negi cuts the material down to a stark minimum.

The people who populate 'Woodstock Villa' are crowded in not by a supporting cast but their inner worlds which simmer to the surface in swirls of indignation.

I especially loved the 10 minutes prior to the tiles when Arbaaz Khan, with his bagful of ransom money, is tracked down by his wife's kidnapper.

There's something about Mumbai under siege. Mehta holds the suspense at arms length. Although an inherently violent film, 'Woodstock Villa' doesn't have too much blood spilling on the expensive wooden floors.

The ambience reeks of unchecked affluence where a wife takes off with a man who almost rapes her before he dumps her body in ravine where the slush and silence seem borrowed from Vikram Bhatt's 'Raaz'.

The two newcomers execute their immoral unscrupulous distraught parts with a confidence that imparts an edge of erotica to the relentless action. Arbaaz has one really difficult sequence where he has to break down at the end and bawl like a baby on the floor.

Meena Kumari in Guru Dutt's 'Sahib Bibi Aur Ghulam' had fallen to the floor with an anguished cry because her husband left her. In this film, Arbaaz's screen wife and mistress leave him at the end. He's the loser in this tightly-knit game of cat and mouse.

And the hero flies off with money that he didn't earn. Gee, what a wonderful world we've gifted to the coming generations.


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