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In the 1970s and 1980s, the Big B swept the Indian box-office like a hurricane. A number of intense and action roles later, the Big B attained the tag of an 'angry young man'. Times changed, family dramas and love stories took precedence� Action took a backseat and so did Bachchan's angry man roles.
Post MOHABBATEIN, Bachchan acted in films that were a far cry from the action-filled masala fares he lent his name to in his prime. However, his current outing, Apoorva Lakhia's EK AJNABEE, sees the actor donning the garb that fitted him so beautifully at a point of time. EK AJNABEE works for this very reason!
Although the film has its share of deficiencies -- it loses balance in the post-interval portions -- it appeals primarily because Bachchan gets our juices running. Besides, Lakhia and his team of writers have juxtaposed drama and bloodbath in an enterprise that grips you completely in the first hour, but the hold loosens [slightly] in the subsequent hour.
The script isn't faulty as such, but the film veers into clich�-ridden situations after its exciting midpoint kidnapping. The twists and turns in the second half do catch you by surprise, but the execution of those sequences is so Hollywood-like that the Indian moviegoer wouldn't find them as impactful. Also -- this is important -- Lakhia seems to have concentrated more on frames and visuals that it often overpowers the material.
Yet, all said and done, EK AJNABEE isn't path-breaking in any respect, but the magic weaved by Bachchan camouflages the defects to a great extent. The film only confirms, yet again, that Big B's charismatic and mesmeric presence alone is worth the price of the ticket.
Suryaveer Singh [Amitabh Bachchan] was a former commando in the army. Fighting many a battle had taken a toll, so he decides to quit and seeks refuge in drinking.
Shekhar [Arjun Rampal], who used to work with him, invites Suryaveer to Bangkok where he owns a security firm. In order to get his life back in order, Shekhar gives Suryaveer a job as a bodyguard.
Suryaveer accepts it, only to find out that it is to protect an 8-year-old girl Anamika [Baby Rucha Vaidya], the only daughter of a tycoon couple [Vikram Chatwal, Perizaad Zorabian]. Somehow, slowly and steadily, Suryaveer forms a bond with her as she gives his life a new meaning.
But his life takes a traumatic turn when Anamika is kidnapped and shot dead subsequently by the chief kidnapper [Raj Zutshi]. A heartbroken Suryaveer swears revenge and starts zeroing on the kidnappers. But what unravels takes him by surprise...
EK AJNABEE seeks its basic inspiration from the Hollywood film MAN ON FIRE [2004; Denzel Washington, Dakota Fanning], but director Apoorva Lakhia has Indianized the plot in such a manner that the basic plot is very identifiable. If APAHARAN [released last week] looked at kidnappings from a small-town issue, in EK AJNABEE it's very urban and those living in metropolis would identify with the goings-on. However, the kidnapping in EK AJNABEE is just a crucial point, for the film turns into a revenge fare before the intermission itself.
The first half is well built and the bonding between Bachchan and Rucha is amongst the most watchable aspects of the enterprise. Lakhia treats those sequences delicately and the impact that the sequences create establish a strong ground for the drama that is to follow. The sequence between Bachchan and Perizaad, when the latter walks out in a huff, or the one on the dinner table when Rucha enquires, amongst other things, about the P.M. of India, or the swimming sessions lift the film to an all-time high.
The kidnap sequence is brilliantly executed as well, it leaves you spellbound. Even the subsequent portions -- when the family is completely distraught -- only add to the impact of a razor-sharp first hour. So far, so good!
But the pace slackens considerably in the post-interval portions. Bachchan's decision to pick up leads to get to the rock-bottom of the issue could've been explained in a simplistic manner. Starting with Denzil Smith to Aditya Lakhia to Akhilendra Mishra to Yuth [the Thai actor who plays the role of Chang] to the 'Boss' [Raj Zutshi], the sequence of events that lead to the chase isn't riveting enough from the writing point of view.
Even when another face is unmasked in the climax [the suspense is withheld for readers!] -- the main conspirator -- it does catch you by surprise, but one only wishes that the explanations were done far more convincingly.
When compared to his directorial debut MUMBAI SE AAYA MERA DOST, Apoorva Lakhia takes giant strides as a storyteller. But he is letdown, to an extent, by the writing [in the post-interval portions], which could've been tighter. Technically speaking, EK AJNABEE is one of the most stylish products witnessed in 2005.
The film boasts of just two songs -- 'Tere Liye' [rendered brilliantly by Kunal Ganjawala] and 'Ek Ajnabee, Mama Told Me' -- and both come at the right places, thereby enhancing the impact. In fact, the placement of 'Tere Liye' at several points of the story is just perfect. The Sanjay Dutt track, placed at the end titles, is very MTVish, in terms of composition, rendition and picturization.
Cinematography is fantastic. The lensman doesn't cover the scenic beauty of Bangkok as much as the other side that the city has to offer. Dialogues are well worded at places. The stunts, in minimal doses, are very realistic.
To state that Bachchan is the lifeline of EK AJNABEE would be putting it mildly. The actor has portrayed a wide variety of roles in his illustrious career and every time you saunter in a movieplex to watch a Big B flick, you actually wonder, what will the actor offer next? But like a true magician, who has mastered the tricks of the trade effortlessly, Bachchan gives every role that extra sheen that only powerhouse performers can justify. Undeniably, EK AJNABEE is another 'medal' on his 'uniform'!
Arjun Rampal's role doesn't have much meat, but the actor doesn't seem overawed by the veteran's towering presence. He holds on his own, although one sincerely hoped that the writer wouldn't have relegated Arjun to the backseat.
Perizaad Zorabian is excellent. The actor finally gets an opportunity to be a part of a commercial set up and the work output is topnotch. Her confrontation with Bachchan initially, later when she learns that her daughter has been shot dead and much later, with her husband Vikram Chatwal, proves that she understands the grammar of acting right.
Baby Rucha is simply adorable. It wouldn't be wrong to state that the young actor matches up to Bachchan in every sequence, contributing enormously to the first half. Vikram Chatwal is strictly okay. Yuth is passable. Amongst character actors, Raj Zutshi, Kelly Dorji and Akhilendra Mishra stand out.
Both Abhishek Bachchan and Lara Dutta appear in the last sequence; Bachchan Jr. is now the bodyguard to a grown up Anamika [Lara Dutta]. Both add star value to the film.
On the whole, EK AJNABEE has a great first hour, but only a decent second. Yet, despite the oddities, it qualifies as a watchable fare. At the box-office, there are several factors going in its favor, but most importantly, it's the million dollar worth free publicity this film has attracted after Big B fell ill. With tremendous anxiety on one hand and Bachchan's sterling performance on the other, EK AJNABEE should prove a welcome visitor for its distributors.
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