Before I damn Kurbaan with faint praise, let me tell you what did work in this film - Vivek Oberoi. The boy is back. Also, Kirron Kher puts in a fantastic performance - the kind that makes me wish that she got more and varied roles so we could see her more often.
Although the promos and posters and website all feature Saif Ali Khan prominently, the real main characters of the film are Kareena Kapoor and Vivek Obeori. Bebo takes center stage in the first half and Vivek in the second. Pre-interval, Kurbaan unfolds like a Hollywood thriller. Saif and Bebo meet cute and soon he is wooing her sneakily but aggressively. (I kept thinking that perhaps Bebo's character should probably have seen Ek Haseena Thi before agreeing to date Saifu.)
Bebo's work suddenly calls her back to New York City and Saifu uses the opportunity to take their relationship to the next level - marriage. He insists that long distance relationships do not work and that since he is a "modern man," he doesn't believe that women need to make all the sacrifices in a relationship and that he will give up HIS life to move to New York with her.
Without giving too much of the plot away, I'll just say that Kareena discovers something she shouldn't and Vivek plays a journalist who gets in over his head. Kirron Kher and Om Puri are Saif and Bebo's Muslim neighbors.
The biggest problem with Kurbaan is summed up by this poster. Looking at it, you think, "Okay, doomed love story. I should bring tissues." I did not cry once. I cried during Aladin. I teared up during the trailers for London Dreams. I cry easily at movies and yet, Kurbaan left me cold. The famed chemistry between Saif Ali Khan and Kareena Kapoor was almost nonexistent, much like in Tashan. Whatever real life romance the two share, it does not translate to film.
Kurbaan has its share of plot holes and unbelievable coincidences that I could have more easily overlooked had I been emotionally involved in the film but due to the aforementioned lack of chemistry, I had plenty of time to think about plot. The terrorism plot is ridiculous. And as somebody who has visited both the fair cities of Philadelphia and New York, the location switching left me kind of dizzy - and the recycling of interiors to represent different places was really noticeable. New York this was not.
Alongside the ridiculous plot, there were some uncomfortable politics on hand. While I am the first to say that entertainment and politics can and should be separate, when a film goes out of its way to associate itself with a political narrative, I can't help but comment. Saif, as we all know from the promos, is an Islamic terrorist and various characters go out of their way to justify Islamic terrorism. Not to mention that Bebo's character is Hindu and her father has some choice words against mixed-marriages. All of this adds up to a heavy layer of "Muslims are all terrorists and jihadis first," which is not a great message to be putting out there right now.
What makes matters worse is that it feels so exploitive. Yes, Saif is Muslim but the makers of the film? No. The scriptwriters? No. The director? No. I picked up MORE than a hint of what we in the United States would call the "Noble Savage" ideology going on - as in, "wow, those people sure are tragic and pure in their beliefs." With an emphasis on the THOSE people. Bebo is our point-of-view character and, well, you will see how she is treated.
As for the performances, Saif Ali Khan has ruined his face with botox and god knows what else. His forehead and eyes no longer move, which is a liability when one is making a film in which one is supposed to be pained and intense. He seemed like a robot, coldly calculating his way through the film. I never once believed that he actually cared about Bebo. He was a blank - a cypher. His character might have been compelling in the hands of another actor but Saif's frozen face revealed nothing to the audience.
Kareena, on the other hand, was a delight. She played her character - Avantika - like a dream. Avantika is a guarded woman who doesn't let others in easily and Bebo did a fantastic job showing her falling in love and then the effortless joy of early marriage. Her fear and terror later in the film were also very well done. I was very impressed with her and think she could easily be up for a Filmfare Award for her performance here.
I couldn't find any promotional pictures of Vivek, which is a shame because he does a fantastic job with the material. I've always liked Vivek and I'm glad to see that he is getting better roles these days. His character goes through a roller coaster of emotions and Vivek's expressive face bring us all along with him. I can't say more without spoiling the plot for you but needless to say, I am dying to see Prince - It's Showtime.
Om Puri was suitably gruff but Kirron Kher steals the show as his devout wife. Again, I don't want to say too much but Kirron Kher deserves more and meatier parts. She conveys so much with her face - all she had in this role, since she spent all of it hidden under layers and layers of fabric. Brava, Kirron!!
So, would I recommend this to you? Go and see Kurbaan if either of the following apply - 1) you like suspense films 2) you are a huge Bebo or Vivek fan. Otherwise, it can wait for DVD rental but you would be much better off with New York.