Rajeev Masand – movies that matter : from bollywood, hollywood and everywhere else

December 7, 2007


Filed under: Our FIlms — Rajeev @ 10:44 pm

December 07, 2007

Cast: Soha Ali Khan, Shiney Ahuja, Rajat Kapoor, Sonia Jehan, Sushmita Mukherjee, Vinay Pathak, Saurabh Shukla

Director: Sudhir Mishra

Set against the backdrop of 50s and 60s Bollywood, director Sudhir Mishra’s Khoya Khoya Chand is about the journey of young hopeful Nikhat Bano, played by Soha Ali Khan, from showbiz starlet to celebrated leading lady of her times.

A character inspired by no one single heroine, Nikhat Bano is in fact, a character derived from so many legendary heroines – you’ll find parallels to Nargis, Madhubala, Meena Kumari and Waheeda Rehman.

Exploited since she was 14, thrust under the nose of sleazy producers by an over-ambitious mother, Nikhat gets her big break when the industry’s leading male star, played by Rajat Kapoor, takes a fancy to her.

Her personal and professional tryst with him does bring her success, but not happiness. The superstar gets married to a suitable, non-filmi bride, and Nikhat finds herself falling for the aspiring writer-director Zafar, played by Shiney Ahuja, who’s been hired to polish a few scripts and to help Nikhat get her dialogue delivery right.

From this point, the film tracks the rocky romance between Nikhat and Zafar whose love is put to test many times as egos clash and ambitions soar.

Few films succeed in transporting you to another place another time, the way Khoya Khoya Chand does. Sitting in that darkened hall you can literally smell the paint on those studio walls because the director makes time, spaces and people come alive with his striking visual treatment.

For the most part, you are happy to play voyeur and peep into the lives of these emotionally tortured souls, but by the time the film crosses the half-way mark, the upheaval in their lives begins to weigh just as heavily on yours.

Sincere and noble and almost reverentially filmed, Khoya Khoya Chand ends up too long, and alas, too boring. The flaw is not in the tale, it’s in the telling – long silences, stream-of-consciousness soliloquies, conversations going nowhere, and dare I say it, self-indulgent shot-taking.

Despite its many strengths — a soul-stirring music score, eye-watering cinematography, and remarkable production design — Khoya Khoya Chand is not what you’d call riveting storytelling because it struggles to pack in so much at the same time.

Mishra is full of little stories and interesting anecdotes from those golden years, and he tries to put them all in. Take those references to Guru Dutt – first in that scene in which Zafar finds himself weeping while directing a poignant scene and forgetting to say cut, and then in that other scene in which the director sits silently in the cinema watching the audience reject his labour of love. They’re tender moments all, but indulgent to say the least.

And there lies the real problem — director Sudhir Mishra falls so hopelessly in love with the era he’s recreating that he can’t seem to distance himself from the world he’s created.

It doesn’t help that leading lady Soha Ali Khan seems ill-equipped to tackle such a layered role, failing in the end to arouse sympathy for such an anguished soul, and Shiney Ahuja shines, but only when he’s brooding.

The film then, belongs to the supporting cast – Saurabh Shukla is first-rate as the producer with all the best lines, and Vinay Pathak hits all the right notes playing the assistant director who goes on to become Nikhat’s possessive manager.

Three cheers also to Sushmita Mukherjee, superbly cast as Nikhat’s surrogate mom in this big, bad filmiworld, and a loud round of applause for Sonia Jehan, who simply dazzles as the reigning diva of the silver screen.

There’s so much to admire about Khoya Khoya Chand, not least the director’s heartfelt homage to those glorious years of black-and-white movie-making. If only someone told him when to stop.

I’m going with two out of five for director Sudhir Mishra’s Khoya Khoya Chand , it’s an experiment, yes, from a filmmaker who’d found his groove with his previous film, but still dares to dream. Even if it’s not his best work, it’s a brave effort.

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)

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