The International Movie Review

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Black & White – Subash Ghai underdelivers

Posted by harino1 on March 9, 2008

After a huge gap and with several other directors making films under the prestigious Mukta Arts banner, Subash Ghai returns to direction with Black and White. Subash Ghai, popularly called ‘Showman’ of bollywood for his larger than life images and films of immense magnitude be it a Taal , Kisna or Yaadein; returns this time around with a much smaller film. Smaller in terms of its magnitude, budget and primarily because the film marks the debut of Anurag Sinha who plays the protagonist.

Subash Ghai goes ahead by exploring something new under his belt and steps into the world of terrorism and its harmful effects. Ghai releases this film under the Mukta Searchlight Films.

The film revolves around Numair Qazi [Anurag Sinha], who introduces himself as a victim of communal riots in Gujarat to the people around him. But the truth is that he is a suicide bomber commissioned by a Muslim fundamentalist group to detonate a bomb near Red Fort on 15th August.  

In comes Rajan Mathur [Anil Kapoor] a Professor in Urdu literature. He resides in Chandni Chowk with his activist wife Roma [Shifaali Shah].

Numair somehow manages to take shelter in the Professor’s house and wins the trust and fondness of the couple. While helping Numair to get an entry pass for 15th August celebrations at Red Fort, Professor Mathur introduces him to the warm and loving people of Chandni Chowk.

Amidst all the tension, he is caught in an emotional dilemma whether to go ahead with his mission. Despite his deep-rooted fundamentalist beliefs, he sees this as one of the most colorful and loving areas. So what happens next? Will he go ahead with his mission or has there been a change in Numair’s views?

Black and White makes an attempt to look into the psyche of a Muslim fanatic and tries to justify why the so called terrorists think the way they do. But at some point or the other the film fails to leave that impact.

Subash Ghai attempts a genre or theme that has never before been explored by him and thus the film tends to loosen up and give way. Ghai’s direction is not top notch unlike several other flicks that have made Ghai the ‘Showman’ he is. The screenplay of the film is loose and so are the characterizations.

Certain characters in the film seem so wasted, for example the girl falling in love with Numair very much the love at first sight style that too across the terrace of two buildings. In fact the love angle shown is just a waste adding to the film’s length. These characters could have definitely been avoided considering the fact that these characters including the bunch of Sahelis( girl friends) lack the believability factor.

Even the characterization of Numair sometimes seems so dry. We do understand that Mr.Ghai wanted to give him a cold blooded , stoned hearted look but throughout the film , he carries the same expressions with the same tone of voice. Even in scenes where we expect the emotions to outpour, Numair stands firm and robust. The scene where Roma is shot dead by Numair’s collegues , here too Numair just stands there looking at the dead body from the door side and doesn’t emote a bit or even take few steps towards the body lying in the center of the room.  Considering the fact that Roma calls Numair her brother and was very dear to him; his emotionless depiction is not justified. We can argue that towards the end Numair shoots the culprits behind the murder but even at that point the cold bloodedness look doesn’t explain whether it was revenge for his Hindu sister or the laws of Islam that forbids the murder of the innocent that provoked him to do so.

Black and White does have its share of good moments and spellbinding scenes. The sequence where Shefali Shah enters into an argument with a local Muslim youth leader and the series of events that turn it into a communal argument with the dialogues followed by Anil Kapoor are impressive.

On the acting front, it is truly Anil Kapoor who is fantastic as the patriotic and just Professor. Anil carries the character with ease and is so impressive with his dialogues moving from a high pitch mentioned in the above sequence to a low pitch at the climax while observing the kids at the parade.

Shefali Shah is very good too and compliments Anil by portraying a realistic wife. Debutant Anurag Sinha does well for a debut but the film actually doesn’t offer much scope to see his versatility as  an actor. Guess we will have to wait till his next to see whether or not Anurag shifts from the angry young man to a true bollywood ‘Hero’.

The character portraying the poet is impressive and natural. New find Aditi fails to impress. Milind Gunaji impresses.

Cinematography by Somak Mukherjee is good. Music by Sukwinder Singh doesn’t have much scope in the film yet ‘jogi ayaa’ and ‘main chala’ are good compositions.

On the whole Ghai indeed tries something different but looses out with the screenplay that at times just drags the film along. Nevertheless, Anil Kapoor is worth watching and so is Anurag Sinha. Also with over two weeks since the release of Jodhaa-Akbar comes a film that hits the theatres in a dry week of college exams. So until Race on March21, Black and White fills the theatres.

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