Cast: Jackie Shroff, Govinda, Aishwarya Rai, Namrata Shirodkar, Saeed Jaffrey
Director: Deepak Sareen
Music Director: Jatin Lalit
Nutshell: rather uninspired piffle, nothing too offensive – just very uninteresting
I was initially a little foxed at our heroine’s nationality and ethnic mix. The daughter of an Austrian, Mr Boris Heinz (Saeed Jaffrey) and the now deceased Jennifer Heinz, who hailed from Malaga, I could not work out how she could be Indian at all, perfect accent and with a saree clad Nanny to boot. I was further confused when the nanny, on being asked by our ignorant heroine as why her mother did not return to Austria with her father, replied that she did not want to leave India.
Malaga has always been in Spain and I wondered if there was something about the geography of India that I was not aware of. It was later clear that the Malaga that is being referred to in the film is not the Spanish one but a fictitious island off India, which explained the Indian link with our heroine. Sonia (Aishwarya Rai) lands in Mumbai on her way to Singapore from Vienna and on being told that the plane is 5 hours delayed, decides to land up in Malaga (Mauritius actually) in search of her mother’s grave.
Here she encounters an overweight, illiterate and garishly clad Tony (Govinda), a tourist guide who immediately takes them under his thumb. Tony has just been to a fortune teller who looked into her crystal ball and told him that a light eyed beauty would whisk him away on a plane to never ending happiness. Tony immediately believes that Sonia must therefore be his soul mate. But we have another angle in this picture, that of the friendly neighbour Nina (Namrata Shirodkar), hopelessly in love with Tony but whose feelings are not reciprocated. Four songs later and more than one hour into the film, we are not much further down in the story except that we know that Tony loves Sonia and believes that she loves him.
At intermission, we have the introduction of Prem (Jackie) which brings consternation to the face of Sonia. The story then unfurls further in flashback. Prem was in love with Sonia but because Sonia’s father was “jilted” by her mother, Mr Heinz views all Indians as undesirables and forbids his daughter to marry Prem. But seeing him again on the shores of Malaga, her heart skips a beat and she wants to rekindle the old fires. Oblivious to all of this is Tony who carries on in his belief that she loves him. Fate plays its hand again when Mr Heinz shows up in Malaga and finding Prem also in Malaga, orders his daughter to return to Austria with him. Tony is devastated and feels he must also leave the island and Sonia innocently tells him to come to Vienna. Of course, he takes this as true love and packs his bag to leave, with the rejected Nina sobbing away and recording her bleeding heart into a tape recorder stuck inside a Pikachu toy!
In the meantime, Sonia discovers the truth about her mother. How will this mishmash of a situation get resolved. Will she accept Tony? What happens to Nina? And to Prem? The only clue that I can give you is that if it wasn’t for good ol Tweety bird, which seemed to have evolved from a pikachu toy, true love would never have found its true path. Albela is intended as a light hearted affair but a script which is not nearly witty or charming enough to sustain what is simply an idea stretched to such an extent that the result is a dull and utterly uninteresting piece of beautiful garbage. It is shot almost exclusively in Mauritius and in Austria and the locations are therefore fabulous. Its heroine Aishwarya Rai for the most part, looks absolutely stunning and has a good role in the film, and manages to give a decent performance. Govinda is loud but is required to be. But he is reaching that stage when he is going to be waddling around if he does not watch his weight. One wishes that he was given a better defined role to be able to bring some spark to it.
Jackie in a shorter role, is OK as is Namrata Shirodkar, in what is actually a miniscule role. Saeed Jaffrey’s performance however is a revelation of sorts, in that I have yet to come across an internationally acclaimed actor to make such an ass of himself. His accent and his demeanour, hardly consistent with that of a respected diplomat, is comical to say the least and this performance must be a runner for the worst performance of the decade award. That having been said, he provided me with much needed relief and many unintended guffaws.
The film has a couple of decent tracks in it but nothing to write home about. Deepak Sareen, the director fails to impress, the only dramatic moment in the film being the introduction of Jackie seen standing on a beach. He punctuates the film with song after song, most of them unnecessary, causing slumber almost 30 minutes into the film. The film could have been pruned by at least 20 minutes although I would have preferred at least three times that. Yep, this is fairly harmless and innocuous stuff, which makes it that much more of a bore. Yawn.