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Review: New York is a compelling watch

Movie:
New York
Director:
Kabir Khan
Cast:
John Abraham, Katrina Kaif, Neil Nitin Mukesh, Irrfan Khan
Avg user rating:
We`re all fascinated with terrorists – what makes them bomb up innocent people; do they have a backstory that prods them onto a destructive path; do they feel remorse and so on. Films too find terrorists a wonderful subject and go on to explore their lives – but it`s such a complex, sensitive issue; one wonders if it`s outside the scope of a mainstream film.

Anyway, what you have here is a nice, love triangle (a given with this impossibly good-looking cast), running parallel with the track of one of them suspected by authorities of having terrorist links.

It begins like this: Omar (Neil Nitin Mukesh) arrives in New York on a scholarship and bonds immediately with Maya (Katrina Kaif) and Sam (John Abraham). Two years of glorious friendship later, they separate and Omar moves to Philadelphia. The FBI, who is tracking Sam for terrorist links, finds the best way to get information would be to infiltrate Omar into Sam`s alleged group. Then begins a semi-suspense track where we wonder who`s right from wrong.

New York is brilliant in bits and parts. Kabir Khan (Kabul Express, 2006) furiously tries balancing grim reality about terror suspects wrongly detained (some jail torture shots are indeed effective) with candy-floss Bollywood sensibilities (characters looking younger than they did when the film starts seven years ago; and the melodramatic climax). The of course, there`s the cliché that Hindi films love – that of a Muslim FBI agent proving his integrity by going after the terrorist belonging to the same faith.

Among the pluses, the first half warms us to the cozy group – when they drink and Omar passes out, the way they play Rugby together, and how they hang out endlessly all over the city. Another huge plus is the humour, which is dark and delicious, popping up unexpectedly.

What doesn`t work is the half- convincing characterization. We do wonder if a human rights activist would hide a terrorist`s existence or whether an FBI officer (Roshan) would meet Omar openly in charming cafes to discuss their top-secret mission. Also cumbersome is the two American characters – Sam and Maya – constantly talking in Hindi with the dialogue explaining why (his dad is a cultural professor; her mom is a Hindi film fan).

The two scene stealers of New York are Neil Nitin Mukesh and Katrina Kaif. As the rosy-cheeked, strawberry-lipped new university recruit who gets embroiled in a situation he could never imagine, Neil Nitin is fantastic. Kaif renders her character beautifully till the end, where sadly, the character sketch itself becomes ambiguous. John Abraham plays a difficult character and surprises with his forceful performance. Irrfan Khan is disappointing, and for no fault of his. After all, he`s done the steely interrogator with a touch of straight-faced humour (like in Slumdog Millionaire) too many times already. The actor who plays terror suspect Zirge is exceptional.

With a casting coup and fab technical support (the cinematography, sound design, songs, styling is super), New York is a fairly compelling watch.

Verdict: Three stars

 

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