Cast: Amitabh Bachchan, Hrithik Roshan, Preity Zinta
Director: Farhan Akhtar
Music Director: Shankar-Ehsan-Loy
Nutshell: a bold and commendable attempt at a bit more than just another war flick
Farhan Akhtar struck gold with his maiden effort Dil Chahta Hai, a path breaking film in terms of style and content. To measure up to Dil Chahta hai is a Herculean task and farhan Akhtar has ostensibly taken a completely different route by making a film set against war in Kargil.
The magnificence of the Ladakh mountains set against cold skies sets the opening frame as a car speeds along its curvy roads passing a sign which shows Kargil at 200 Kms. The new recruit Lieutenant Karan Shergill (Hrithik Roshan) arrives in Kargil and is introduced to his regiment, stationed by the LOC where he meets Colonel Sunil Damle (Amitbh Bachchan). Troubled, we enter the land of the flashback yet again and find a carefree Karan, long dishevelled hair and without a care in the world, aimless and meandering down the corridors in life not knowing or caring what the future may hold for him. Within the picture is also Romilla Dutta (Preity Zinta), someone who is focussed on what she wants to be and although she loves Karan, she has her own goals to achieve. Son of an affluent businessman, there are no goals in life for Karan…sleep late, lout around and be plagued with the eternal question of what is one to do with life.
Karan is also a product of a somewhat disjointed family, mother being supportive and father aloof and distant, disappointed with his son. Not having a firm idea in mind, Karan enrolls himself in the Indian Military school, not because this is what he really wants to do but because the idea seems attractive because one of his friends has also decided to enroll. Stuck on his own when his friend drops out, Karan treats the Military academy with carefree abandon, .When the going gets tough, he runs away and returns home, this time to be told that he must join his father’s business, as he simply cannot apply himself with any degree of seriousness to what he would like for his future. His fate having been sealed, he goes off to meet Romilla expecting a warm welcome but Romilla is horrified at Karan’s failure to stick to his own decisions and walks away saying that she would never like to see him again. This and his father’s belief that he will always continue to be a layabout provides the turning point in Karan’s life and he returns to the Indian Military school.
Farhan Akhtar’s film is a bold and ambitious film which aspires to be more than just a war film. It is the journey of a man trying to find meaning to his life. In some ways, it is a coming of age tale which is not dissimilar to the characters of DCH, their paths and how they move from pranks at college to their lives a few years on. Lakshya is no different in that concept but very different as a film. One feels that Farhan simply does not delve deep enough and his tale of a boy finding an aim in his life takes a backseat to the war, which was actually meant to be a backdrop to the main story. Kargil appears the motivating factor and the story built around it which would appear to be the fault of Javed Akhtar. Kargil does stand as a blot on Pakistan’s history and there is no taking away from this fact and one can perhaps understand Farhan Akhtar’s desire to show the war as it was, a victory for India and less so as a personal indictment on war itself. Yet, the war does not cause Karan’s growth of character, it simply shows his resolve to achieve something…but his achievement lies in the fact that he has already achieved his focus even before the war. If indeed, if is Akhtar’s desire to show Karan as an achiever, then the mere fact that he becomes a proud part of the army is enough and does not require him to conquer the peaks conquered by the Pakistanis. Karan’s reasons for going into the army are somewhat unconvincing if we are to believe that his interest is sparked by an action programme on tv.
The film also moves at a languid pace and save for the one or two songs, there is little to make this upbeat fare. The second half takes on a more serious tone with the Kargil battle taking the spotlight. This becomes a rather elongated segment which whilst brilliantly shot, begins to slacken the pace of the film. Furthermore, the message of the horrors of war are not driven home and it is very much the battle for the motherland against the enemy. Farhan Akhtar also leaves the love story aside for much of the second half which to some extent we are told is the driving force behind Karan’s journey. But this does not come across in strong terms. Farhan is also not so good in showing the somewhat strained father-son relationship which also proves to be a motivating factor in Karan’s life.
Hrithik Roshan’s portrayal of Karan is the most important strand of the film. The film revolves around him and he delivers a subtle and yet very effecting performance finding just the right balance between the somewhat flighty Karan to the motivated Karan on the border. He speaks with his eyes and there is an intensity which begs for more. Lakhshya will prove to be a memorable film for him. Preity Zinta has an important role and brings her usual brand of freshness to the character. Zinta is someone who is building a repertoire of interesting characters regardless of the length of her role and must be admired for this. Amitabh Bachchan has a small role and the audience always expects more. However, he excels even in his brief scenes. Om Puri is wasted.
The film is handsomely shot with amazing cinematography and stunning shots of the barren Ladakh mountains. The battle scenes are also effective if somewhat prolonged. Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy’s music is more effective as a background score and you can feel that some of the songs are inserted to bring a modicum of relief to the viewer. Agar Main Kahoon will probably be the most popular number although there is a poignancy in kandhon se milte hain kandhe..
Lakhshya ultimately is a film that does not quite succeed because it leaves the viewer somewhat cold. This may be because the film does concentrate to a great deal on the war which has been overdone and has no novelty to the viewer after having suffered the risible LOC recently. Also, the film appears to have come at a time when the mood is of friendship and a film which seeks not to show the futility of war seems to grate rather than provide a strong emotional base to the film. It simply does not pack the required punch and one leaves the film without the feeling that it has delved deep enough or in fact, being affected by anything or anyone in it.