Perhaps this is the reason Kareena Kapoor’s bare back, Saif’s chest, and the couple’s lovemaking scenes have been publicized more than what the film is about. Why, after a spate of films on terrorism (Fanaa, Aamir, A Wednesday, Khuda Ke Liye, New York), would one opt for another is beyond comprehension.
Kurbaan doesn’t have anything new to say. In fact, it’s similar to New York in the sense of a well-heeled, educated, seemingly genteel sort of person turning out to be a terrorist. The usual debates about jihad being Allah’s will-versus- Islam being a peace-propagating religion take place throughout the film.
Folks like the college professor, the elderly neighbours are shown to be involved in terrorist activities; and in true Hindi film fashion, the negative portrayal is balanced by a couple of `good’ Muslim characters. The story’s treatment, at once, strikes you as being decorative. Not once, does the filmmaker go into the depths of the characters’ thinking and their motives, choosing, instead, to repeat the drone of bombs, jihad, Afghanistan and 9/11.
Newly married couple Avantika (Kareena) and Ehsaan (Saif) move to the USA after a brief romance. The films wastes too much time on the courtship in the beginning with the usual guy pursuing and the girl like a good Hindi film heroine, acting excessively coquettish and saying no when she means yes. Both professors, they get jobs in their new city and a new home too. But Avantika slowly realizes that all’s not well in the neighbourhood (some nice, suspenseful moments here). She accidentally listens in on a plan to bomb a plane, and that’s not the only surprise in store for her. A recorded telephone message alerting journalist Rihanna (Dia Mirza) who is going to board the plane finds its way to her colleague Riyaz (Vivek Oberoi) who now wants to set out to find the terrorist cell. The dramatic finale unfolds across underground subway stations complete with explosions, nick-of-the time rescues, the FBI, high-voltage background music, and emotional melodrama.
At several instances, you’ll find yourself questioning the film’s seriousness in justifying its developments. There are several unanswered questions – how is a ruthless and maniacal terrorist tender at most times, how can a stranger enter a terrorist cell so effortlessly (the character just says he’s changed jobs and no one does a background check; all he says is he’s upset at being double-checked at the airport because of his Muslim name), how can an Islamic Studies professor defend 9/11 to a class full of mixed-origin students, how can a suicide bomber be moved by someone’s speech and let them go unharmed, why is Kulbhushan Kharbanda’s fundamentalist character introduced and then not shown at all and so on.
Performances vary. Kareena Kapoor (looking totally stunning) and Saif Ali Khan (has looked better otherwise) are in great form and their chemistry is the undisputed highlight of the film. Watch out for Kareena’s emotional outburst at the end of the film to see the actress’s acting prowess. Saif is unassuming and intense, playing the loosely- written part earnestly. Vivek Oberoi shines in some portions, but is just about passable otherwise. Om Puri gives a lustreless performance. Kirron Kher is alright. Dia Mirza is effervescent.
Debut director Rensil D’Silva’s (wrote Rang De Basanti) storytelling is immersing and pacy, though evidently Hollywood-hungover. His original thought or opinion on the subject is sorely missed and the portrayal of terrorism follows exactly what we’ve seen in films so far. One just wishes filmmakers find other, less serious, backdrops to prop their love stories against. Cinematography is fab, as is the sound design. Background score destroys any shred of emotional connect that you might have begun to feel about the story. Songs are nice enough, though inclusion of songs like Shukran Allah and Ali Maulla are predictable.
Unlike Khuda Ke Liye where you could sense the filmmaker’s urge to put forward a point, Kurbaan is a `terrorist flick’, where the Kareena-Saif chemistry will be better liked and talked about than the film’s content. Sample Kurbaan if you can forgive the director’s `filmy’ take on terrorism and can enjoy the thrilling moments and superb performances nevertheless.
Verdict: Two and a half stars