Mohabbatein (2000)

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Mohabbatein (2000)
Cast: Amitabh Bachchan, Shahrukh Khan, Uday Chopra, Jugal Hansraj, Jimmy Shergil, Shamita Shetty, Kim Sharma, Preeti Jhangiani
Director: Aditya Chopra
Music Director: Jatin Lalit
Synopsis: follow up to Dilwale Dulhania is highly ambitious but ultimately a flawed successor

 

A train starts to pull into a station, almost identical to the platform that took Raj and Simran away to a life of happiness in Dilwale Dulhaniya le jayenge, the director’s previous effort. Could it be that Raj and Simran are returning home and this is Dilwale part 2. Now in its sixth year, Dilwale is a magical film brought to life by some wonderful performances and a brilliantly structured script. Mohabbatein has a lot to live up to.

The story revolves around three students of Gurukul, Sameer, Karan and Vicky. Gurukul is a college which is run under the strict eye of its principal Narayan Shankar (Amitabh Bachchan). From his opening address to his students, it appears to be more like a military school than a college as any breaking of Gurukul’s traditions means almost immediate rustication. Narayan Shankar is a cold, aloof and emotionless man. He does not like change. He has run his college in the same manner for 25 years and is proud of his method and manner.

The film then follows the three stories of the three boys. Vicky is smitten by a girl from the next door college Ishika (Shamita Shetty), Karan sees a lone figure dressed in red at the other side of the railway station and loses his heart and Sameer is in love with Sanjana, a girl he has not seen for 6 years and to whom he has never been able to express his love. Well, these individual love stories seem to get going despite the dreaded Narayan Shankar’s edicts of not leaving the premises. Initially, there is some hesitation because rumour has it that Narayan Shankar threw out a boy from his college years ago because he had the audacity of falling in love with his daughter, who subsequently committed suicide. Even that did not mellow the man. No prizes for guessing who that man must be. Sameer meets Sanjana in the market and the friendship blossoms again although she has a boyfriend and he is not able to tell her how he feels. Karan finds out that the girl in the red, Kiran is in fact a widow who waits endlessly for her husband to return as this gives her father in law the hope that he may return alive. So he becomes a friend of hers and their love blossoms.

Then there is Ishika and Vicky who seem to have stepped out of the set of Dil to paagal hai and apart from the usual repartee, there is little to this romance. But the person who has been responsible for this surge in people’s hearts for love and pursuing love in none other than Raj Aryan, a new music teacher. One is made to believe that he brings these students to life and lectures them on music and mohabbat. Do as your heart tells you which prompts the three to burst through the gates of Gurukul and burst into song and dance. Lucky for them the principal was not around. Raj seems to even make a place for himself with Narayan Shankar and is able to bend the rules a little even though Narayan Shankar is not in favour of change. But matters reach a climax when Raj Aryan organises a birthday party for himself and arranges for the girls of the neighbouring college to attend the party along with their principal (Helen). Narayan Shankar will not have this and Raj is asked to leave. It is now that Raj reveals himself to be the boy who loved Shankar’s daughter and who was thrown out of Gurukul by him. This comes as a shock to Narayan Shankar but not to the audience. Raj’s contract says he cannot be removed from his job and he makes plain his intention to stay and bring so much love to the college to offset Shankar’s harsh and loveless path. This is when the conflict starts. Will love conquer all or will Narayan Shankar’s way defeat the power of love.

Aditya Chopra’s film is a simple weaving of four love stories into a fabric which promises more than it actually delivers. Based loosely on “Dead poet’s society”, it has none of the feeling and emotional depth that that film aspired to, as it is lost in trying to juggle all these love stories with the main thread of the film, which should have been the relationship of the students with their music teacher and Raj’s relationship with Narayan Shankar.

The fault in this film lies in the fact that the three young love stories are of very little interest. There is very little conflict in their lives and certainly two of the love stories are just pure candyfloss. The only one where there is a semblance of conflict is the story of Karan and Kiran. A great deal of time is spent on these love stories thereby foregoing drama for your cliché build up to the climax of the film. The other fault is that we do not really see a close or meaningful relationship between the music teacher and his students. It is shown in song or in his encouraging them in a scene or two but there is no emotional depth shown to their relationship. Did he really make a difference to them? How did he inspire them. This is never developed or shown. There is no apparent bond between any of the students and Raj. Raj simply seems to be content to be walking around with the spirit of his loved (and lost, now deceased) one, spreading a little happiness to all and sundry, even with the help of yellow flowers!

The strength of the film lies in its central relationship between Raj Aryan and Narayan Shankar. This is a battle between two legends of Indian cinema and the director has ensured that both have ample ammunition to duel against each other. Their scenes are the best thing in the film and one wishes that there had been more. You may think that this is because you have two consummate actors playing against each other but that is not the only reason. When these two are together, that is the only time when there is drama of any meaning and depth on display. Otherwise, we are back to the romances of the three boys or the flashbacks showing us Raj’s story. The director handles this also in a curiously cold fashion. One craves for more of “ek larki thi deewani see, ek larke pe woh marti thi”, the lines before the “ankhen khuli ho” song but alas, they aren’t forthcoming. The love stories have nothing new or fresh to offer, no real moments of true romance. Perhaps this is because it is first love but isn’t that when love is at its most intense and passionate? Even Raj’s romance with Megha (Aishwarya in a small role) leaves the viewer unmoved and uninvolved. Her suicide is one of the weakest scenes in the film.

Amitabh Bachchan towers over this film and it is simply a treat for his fans to see him in a role which befits his talent. Here is an actor whose material has almost always let him down although non one but he himself and his image is to be blamed for that. So hats off to Aditya Chopra in giving him a role which suits his age and gives him the opportunity of playing a character which is not larger than life. Amitabh is always controlled and makes his character believable. Shahrukh Khan gives a decent account of himself and in his emotional scenes with Amitabh, matches him step by step. However, he is otherwise almost like an overgrown Raj from Dilwale with the same expressions and persona. His character suffers in that the director has not developed his role well enough and concentrated on the three lead pairs.

The film introduces many new faces. Uday Chopra, the director’s brother gives an breezy performance in a happy go lucky role which does not require very much of him. But whatever he is asked to do, he does it well. Jimmy Shergill is also good in the best role out of the three young male lead roles. Jugal Hansraj is the only one out of the three to have acted before and he is natural and at ease in his role. Out of the girls, Shamita Shetty has a bare and dare kind of role but brings some spunk to her performance. Kim Sharma is utterly insipid and Preeti Jhangiani makes little impression in what is perhaps the best role out of the three. None of the six exude much charm with the exception of Jugal Hansraj who displays a child like vulnerability. Aishwarya Rai, in a small role, drifts in an out as the spirit who wants to spread the word of love.

The music of the film is at best passable but a huge disappointment for a Yashraj film. There are a couple of hummable numbers but not any that are going to be immensely popular.

Aditya Chopra directs the film as if it was too mammoth a task to do justice to everything and thereby ends up with a half-baked product. He has too many characters to deal with and ends up doing justice to none of them. However, he is still has command in his story telling and even though it is a long film, it maintains interest throughout. For me, the film comes alive in the scene when Helen breaks into an impromptu dance. This is cinema at its most charming, merging the past with the present.

Perhaps it is unfair to judge this film so harshly as it is miles ahead of the utter rubbish that one sees almost every week and I would not hesitate to recommend it to someone who wanted to see a decent hindi film. But he has set up expectations on the basis of his last film and this does not measure up to it. It also sets up expectations on the basis of its title…Mohabbatein. This should have been a film full of intensity, passion and romance. Unfortunately , it only achieves this on a superficial level. Having said all of this, I must say that I enjoyed the film but at 3 hours and 36 minutes, I doubt that I would be tempted to go back and see it.