By Subhash K. Jha, Indo-Asian News Service
Film: "Fanaa"; Starring Aamir Khan, Kajol, Tabu, Rishi Kapoor, Kirron Kher; Directed by Kunal Kohli
Send up a silent prayer for rediscovering that old lost pleasure of a powerful plot that "Fanaa" retrieves so affectionately for us. Also send up a prayer for an actor like Kajol who fills up the screen with feelings and thoughts that go way beyond the tears, fears and jeers of a workaday movie.
Shibani Bathija's powerful drama about the tumultuous romance and tragedy between a blind Kashmiri girl Zooni (Kajol) and her guide, mentor and tormentor Rehaan (Aamir Khan) is suffused in the silken sounds of a heart feeling the first stirrings of love and hurt.
Kajol expresses the delicate fragrance of a blind girl's romantic and sexual awakening in the hustle bustle of Delhi with a sure-fire sensitivity that energises the plot and gives the narrative the edge of excitement that cinematic romance captures once in a while.
Cinematographer Ravi Chandran shoots in places that the camera seldom visits. But Jatin-Lalit's songs, though well shot leave little lingering impact.
The romantic interludes are beautifully written. The shayari between Zooni and Rehaan flows out of the script to create an insouciant intimacy between the couple.
Just when the romance builds to a quiet crescendo, director Kunal Kohli brings in huge dollops of drama. In quick succession, Zooni regains her eyesight (a medical miracle straight out of the cinema of the 1970s), loses love, returns to be with her parents in the wilderness of Kashmir (actually Poland), becomes a mother and shelters Rehaan without knowing who he is.
Speed attack? More like a flurry of dramatic activity created to convey a sense of urgent doom.
Oddly, the mid-section of the narrative looks like a poor version of "Mission Impossible". Even the background score by Salim-Sulaiman echoes "Mission Impossible", making us wonder why the old-world charm of a tender romance had to be compounded by contemporary corruptibility.
Aamir Khan is certainly more at home playing the eternal romantic than the hardened terrorist. Jehad is topical but only when the director can bring headlines into the plot without bumping into the footnotes.
Aamir's romantic scenes with Kajol convey a kaleidoscopic chemistry. A major portion of the second-half is shot in a snow-swept cottage. Director Kohli uses the restricted space to great advantage creating a domestic warmth among the four confined characters played by Aamir, Kajol, Rishi and the delightful child actor who gets to mouth some of the most naturally endearing lines to have escaped young unschooled lips on screen.
The narrative exudes a warm glow of glamour and substance. That silly self-conscious emptiness that had crept into recent romantic films is gone, as we are swept into a stylish yet substantial kingdom of courtship and damnation.
Yet you cannot escape the web of improbabilities that creep willy-nilly into the otherwise well-ordered plot.
Critical bits of the story where the female protagonist with newly-restored eyesight encounters her lost paramour in a new surrounding echo the recent flop Amisha Patel-starrer "Humko Tumse Pyar Hai".
Aamir Khan is extremely effective in some sequences, though not consistently compelling in his various transitions and disguises.
Kajol steals a march over her co-star. She goes from romantic awakening to tragedy and motherhood with skilled smoothness without ever letting her craft shine through.
But what is the astonishing Tabu doing in this film? As a government agent tracking down a dangerous Kashmiri militant she looks as lost and anorexic as a model on the wrong ramp. Among the supporting actors Rishi Kapoor as Kajol's father is delightful.
As in his earlier film "Mujhse Dosti Karoge", the director here makes endearing use of old film songs to bring the couple closer together. The sound of Lata Mangeshkar's "Lag jaa gale se" in the background raises the emotional level considerably.
Star-crossed love never seemed more dramatic in recent times. For this we need to thank the stars.
Bollywood.com Rating: 3.5