'Socha Na Tha' has its redeeming moments...

By Subhash K. Jha, IANS

imageFilm: "Socha Na Tha"; Starring Ayesha Takia, Abhay Deol, Apoorva Jha; Also Starring Ayesha Julka, Rati Agnihotri, Raj Zutsi, Sandhya Mridul; Directed by Imtiaz Ali.

Thank god for the animated aspirations of young, urbane, hip cinema. At least it moves.

After the stagnant status-quo-centric "Bewafaa" last week, "Socha Na Tha" offers the comfort of muted mobility. Much of the movement afforded to this slight concoction of urban chic is self-serving and finally futile. But it's fun while it lasts.

Except for the occasional vulgarity, the dialogues by Ishan Trivedi are supple and tongue-in-cheek. But like much of what goes into the plot, the words are finally more emblems of contemporary connectivity than real people caught in situations of real interaction. Whether it's the hero breaking into a jig at a traffic jam or the heroine making a face in the mirror, you know these youngsters are getting cute for the camera.

The whole ambience exudes a kind of enthusiastic youthful energy that Farhan Akhtar conceptualised for his trend-setting urban fable "Dil Chahta Hai". In fact the film's theme of a don't-care-a-damn dude's falling in love with the match that his parents arrange for him is cart-lifted from Farhan's film where Saif Ali Khan fell in love with Sonali Kulkarni whom he had agreed to 'view' on his parents' insistence.

There's a zing-sting to Ayesha Takia's eyeball-rolling enactment of the humiliating way she has been paraded in the past for potential grooms. It's one of the film's more endearing moments of soul-tickling interaction.

Not all of the episodes translate as effectively on screen as they would on paper. The urbane wit extended to a befuddled, largely aimless 20-something guy's search for true love has its bright moments. But these are frittered away in pursuit of a larger plot. The peppering and the window-dressing are delectable. But the real meal lacks the palatable design that we're led to expect. Part of the blame goes to debutant Abhay Deol for whom this 'unusual' debut vehicle (boy-meets-wrong-girl) has been designed.

No, don't get me wrong. This new Deol isn't a bad actor. But Abhay lacks the urbane wit of a Saif Ali Khan. His character is a sly amalgamation of Saif and Aamir Khan in "Dil Chahta Hai". Amused, cocky, over-confident and work-shy, Abhay Deol tries hard to project all of this. If we discount his awkward body language and the tendency to appear more like a dud than a dude, he gets more than pass marks, especially since he's given sequence after sequence to prove himself.

Among them I'd single out the one where he barges into his future in-laws' place to convince them that their Catholic daughter Karen (Apoorva Jha) wouldn't be safe in a Hindu family such as his.

It's a cleverly written sequence audaciously inverting the whole communal issue into a comic interlude. But the cleverness shows. This tendency to let the writer's skills show up in the narrative defeats much of the film's primary purpose. By the time, Viren (Abhay) and Aditi (Ayesha) are seen sharing a hug by her furious brother, we know the film is being too clever for its own good.

Straining to be savvy and zestful, "Socha Na Tha" does have its redeeming moments. The finale when the goody-goody Aditi gathers the courage to run away from her engagement to join Viren is again a well-written piece executed with a look-ma-no-hands élan.

If only the film had avoided being so self-congratulatory. Like Ken Ghosh's "Ishq Vishq", "Socha Na Tha" goes into campus confusions with cocky amusement.

Unlike Anant Mahadevan's recent "Dil Mange More", Socha Na Tha is shot like a string of 'scenes' rather than an over-view of a young man's journey from careless courtships to responsible romanticism.

Much of Sandesh Shandilya's songs are designed to be hip, trendy and casual. But the effort shows. Nonetheless, "Socha Na Tha" is an endearing effort to give a virgin twist to the boy-meets-girl theme. And though Abhay is not quite the new dude to watch out for, he does hint at a talent that could emerge in the future.