Dir: Subhash Ghai
Cast: Vivek Oberoi, Antonia Bernath, Isha Sharvani
Technically proficient, with a musically sound ear and extreme earthiness in his understanding of mass audiences, Ghai of late can also be classified as a follow-up filmmaker.
If you track his recent works, a possible trend to establish is his affinity to analyse contemporary, commercially successful cinema, and take a pie off it to transcribe his own take at the turnstile.
Net result, Pardes (1997) was vaguely a result of Aditya Chopra's Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge (1995). In a similar vein, Yaadein (2001) was an aftermath of Karan Johar's Kuch Kuch Hota Hai (1998). And Kisna's (2005) roots can clearly be traced to a sub-plot in Ashutosh Gowariker's Lagaan (2001) — that of a white girl (in this case, Bernath) who takes a shine to a young Indian man Kisna (Oberoi), while extreme jealousy haunts the boy's Indian love-interest (Sharvani).
Like in Lagaan, it's not initially certain whether the apparently asexual male protagonist is expressedly and devotedly besotted by either his desi fianc, or the mem — daughter of a hated British Government official. But that's not even the key crisis in this picture.
The predominant conflict is relatively so lame that it's easy to see why eventually the film doesn't stand. A little Brit girl, who was sent off to England by her racist dad — because he loathed her fondness for Kisna — returns to the small Indian town with an irritable Hindi accent after attending public school.
Given the ascent of revolutionaries, led by Kisna's brother and uncle in the town, and the announcement of India's independence, the Brit girl's family is attacked — father bumped off, mother and teenaged girl forced to go on the run.
This run, with Kisna (hardly valorous looking) as their sole sworn protector, is what effectively runs for about three excruciatingly long hours.
What's not clear is why the entire band of bandicoots at a time of pre-Partition riots are hell bent upon baying for the innocent mom and daughter's blood — given that the same lot left them alone as they freely visited Kisna's home and elsewhere before.
So, thanks for a refreshing perspective on how many of the pre-Independence anti-British rebels were actually genuine outlaws. Thanks for the brilliantly executed repeated chase sequences.
And thanks for the lovely nautch number on a blue-set (instead of red, a la Sanjay Leela's Bhansali's Devdas). But a better justification of this manic marathon would have helped, maybe?
Equally half-baked is the dumbfounded, brainless belle in this confused love trio (Sharvani), who could do better with her stupendous trapeze acts at the local circus, than the local cinema.
What's curiously missing, or I didn't notice, is Ghai's trademarked cameo appearance in his film.
But what's definitely not missing in this muddled message is Ghai's penchant for showing sheer grandeur on screen, merging it with a mellifluous, moving soundtrack — never mind the non-moving premise.
Not surprising then, that this is at best, an extremely beautifully designed, bore.