Ghai, Oberoi look to get back form with 'Kisna'

By Subhash K. Jha, IANS

imageMumbai, Jan 19 (IANS) The film industry has its eyes set on the coming Friday when Subhash Ghai's "Kisna" finally comes to town. Described by some as Bollywood's own version of James Cameron's "Titanic", "Kisna" is expected to be the year's first big hit.

Though Ghai's last directorial venture "Yaadein" is hardly remembered by the common or not-so-uncommon man, two years after release it nonetheless hasn't dimmed Ghai's reputation as a movie moghul.

The whole industry and a very large part of the audience are eagerly waiting for "Kisna".

The film comes with a lot of the trademark premium value that's attached to the typical Subhash Gahi product. There's the epic music score, this time composed jointly by Ismail Durbar and A.R. Rahman.

But Ghai has also gone beyond expectations by working with Vivek Oberoi for the first time. It's an unlikely director-star combination. And when we consider the fact that this would be Ghai's first period film, "Kisna" does appear a huge gamble for the movie Moghul.

One could well ask, do period films have a staunch market? In recent times three of the biggest blockbusters "Gadar", "Lagaan" and "Devdas" have been period films. However it must also be remembered that these films worked wonderfully because they told strong and gripping stories.

That's what Ghai promises in "Kisna". Moving diametrically away from the Indian films set in the British Raj, which traditionally show the 'gora log' (white people) as enemies, "Kisna" looks at a love story between a British girl (Antonia Bernath) and a noble simple Indian villager.

Debutante Isha Sharvani plays Oberoi's homespun love interest.

Will Sharvani create the same impact as Ghai's earlier discoveries/re-inventions, namely Meenakshi Sheshadri in "Hero", Madhuri Dixit in "Ram Lakhan" and Mahima Chowdhary in "Pardes"?

The overall buzz in the film industry about Ghai's new discovery is super-positive. Sharvani is all set to storm the film industry with a velocity that no female discovery has displayed in recent times and only one male debutant Sammir Dattani showed in 2004.

Most of all "Kisna" is critical for Vivek Oberoi. The much-vilified actor had a rough 2004 with his eagerly awaited films "Yuva" and "Kyun!...Ho Gaya Na" (the latter with his real-life lady-love Aishwarya Rai) didn't live up to expectations.

Coincidentally, Vivek's role in Kisna of an incurable do-gooder coincides with the untainted philanthropist's image that he has earned through his sincere work with the Tsunami victims.

Nobility will this week rub shoulders with a touch of roguish raunchy peek-a-boo at socialites' mores in Madhur Bhandarkar's "Page 3". The film about the scandal-creators of the cocktail lounges (give or take a cock or a tail) comes from a director who was himself the eye of a scandal in 2004.

So does that give "Page 3" a value opposite to what "Kisna" acquires through its leading man's image of nobility?

Not quite! Bhandarkar's ensemble piece criss-crosses through lives of spunky, spicy, bitchy and belligerent socialites and other party animals as seen through the eyes of a film journalist, played by Konkona Sensharma.

Konkona had an English-language release "Amu" two weeks ago. "Page 3" is her first Hindi film. That makes it special for her. It's also Bhandarkar's last-bid attempt to regain the glory of "Chandni Bar". His two subsequent films "Satta" and "Aan: Men At Work" hardly covered him with glory.

Several careers hinge on this week's release. If Vivek Oberoi needs to consolidate the position he created after "Company", Madhur Bhandarkar needs to go beyond scandals, both in reel and real life.