Sunday, November 22, 2009

Kurbaan - A Sacrifice of (My) Time

Oh, Kurbaan - belonging to my favorite of genres, the "terromance." Sadly, Kurbaan will not be joining Fanaa and Dil Se on my DVD shelf because despite what Karan Johar says, it's not actually a romance. Kurbaan is a suspense-thriller kind of tastelessly set among Islamic terrorists in New York City. I got the feeling that Kurbaan was aiming for a cross between New York and Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi and but never quite got there.

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.

17 comments:

Emily said...

NAHIIIIIIIN!!!

This is the movie I was most looking forward to this year -- I should have known not to trust KJo. Darn it!

I guess I'll just go rewatch Fanaa a dozen times while I wait for DVD. I don't have time to drive to Kansas City this weekend anyway. :-P

Kiran said...

Great review as always. Wasn't sure about seeing this in the first place, but your review along with the hilarious village idiot's (http://www.thevigilidiot.com/2009/11/21/kurbaan/) convinced me to stay away.
Glad to hear about Vivek oberoi's performance though. He sure deserves author backed roles.

Filmi Girl said...

@Emily I know!!! I was really looking forward to this, too, but I should have known better. Saifu hasn't been hitting it out of the park for me recently. They should have gone with an actor who could deliver more than one expression.

@Kiran Hee!! Thanks for that link! Yeah, you can skip this one without too much worry. If you are curious, wait for the DVD. :)

Sujal said...

See it if I'm a fan of suspense, eh?

I might have to, at some point, give it a look. Maybe.

bollywoodfoodclub said...

Excellent review! I was just wondering if I should see this at the theater this afternoon. "Terromance" is a fantastic term. I never realized that I too enjoy that genre, especially Ek Haseena Thi with it's satisfying ending.
LOL @ "I got the feeling that Kurbaan was aiming for a cross between New York and Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi and but never quite got there." I am not surprised by any of your assessments of who acted well, and am disappointed to read about the botoxing of Saifu. I suppose I will wait for the DVD. Thanks for the great write up.
All the best!
Sita-ji

Filmi Girl said...

@sujal Yeah, if you are in the mood for some suspense and explosions then Kurbaan could be a good time pass, as long as you have the fast forward button at hand. ;P

@sita-ji You could easily skip this one. Saifu looked so plasticy! It was distracting! Plus, his hair looked kind of fake - I'm wondering if he is wearing a hairpiece now.

And I forgot to mention the best part!! At one point the FBI goes out of their way to describe his as "35" years old!! LOL!!! Why was that even in there?! They could have either a) not mentioned his age or b) just said "40." Saif - I love you (or did) but you are no longer anywhere NEAR "35."

ghazalintokyo said...

hey! thanks for the great review filmigirl.. i've been wondering if i should see the movie mainly because of the film's politics--i'm Muslim and Pakistani, and i love love Bollywood but have not much tolerance for stuff that blatantly stereotypes 'people like me' (for lack of a better term) as fanatics/terrorists/jihadis. Although i've heard so much about vivek's performance i'm tempted.. what do you say? should i go ahead or just skip it? :)

love your blog btw!!

Filmi Girl said...

@ghazalintokyo Welcome! (and thank you!)

Well... I would caution against it, especially if you are upset by the stereotype of Muslims as jihadis. Vivek was good he's not worth sitting through the whole movie for.

Did you see New York? I should repost that review because I thought it handled the issue much better.

And are you in Tokyo? Because that is cool! 日本ことが大好きです!

bollywoodfoodclub said...

Speaking of "New York" which I did not see, did you see Khuda Kay Liya"

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Khuda_Ke_Liye

I read somewhere that "New York" was partly based on that.

All the best!
Sita-ji,
(35 years old, just like Saifu) ;)

Beth said...

Yep yep yeppity yep to everything you said! I think the film is saved by being interesting and (for me at least) suspenseful, and I was really curious what Saif's character would do/think by the end (and as one can see in my post [hee!], I'm not really sure what the film was doing by that point, though, so I'm only half-convinced that the suspense was deliberate rather than a result of confused or worn-out writing.

I haven't seen New York and am not sure how I feel about terroromance - hard to imagine anything that is more effective at either the love story, the political conviction of the terrorists, or the conflicted minds of those characters involved in both than Dil Se. Also, it has Katrina, who sets off my Avoid Yaar radar.

Kareena zindabad!

hiiyaa said...

Thanks for the review! I wasn't exactly excited for this, more curious because of Vivek maybe, but it sounds incredibly stupid so will wait for the YouTube version :P.

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.
... as opposed to what? Emoting with her hair or neck? I'm sorry but I don't think I understand the purpose of this sentence. Care to explain? :)

Filmi Girl said...

@hiiyaa Well, usually you could see more in her body language but here all, you could really see of Kirron was her face. :)

@Beth You probably wouldn't like New York but you should check out Black & White if you haven't already. :)

And did you catch the "35 years old" thing too? LOL!

By the end of the film, I actually wanted the bombs to go off, just because I was so desperate for something to happen... ;P

A said...

Yeah... I saw it with a friend last night, and ... well, it was the only thing at our local multiplex that I wanted to see. But your critique of Saif's acting is spot on. And Vivek was better than I've ever seen him, and Kareena was good.

I thought the politics put in the mouths of the Islamic terrorists were reductionist crap -- it pissed me off. No professor would host such a stupid discussion.

This makes me want to see Ek Haseena Thi... I loved Fanaa and Dil Se, which were my introductions to the sub-genre.

I was also pissed off that they couldn't work musical numbers in. Both Dil Se and Fanaa had awesome soundtracks and dance numbers.

A said...

Oh, sorry -- I don't really know how to comment here. The above was from me -- maeve66 from LJ.

Filmi Girl said...

@maeve66 Hi!! Yeah, I was unimpressed with the whole thing... and things would have been much improved with musical numbers. Songs help to build an emotional narrative, which would have taken the pressure off of the actual narrative - which was lame.

ghazalintokyo said...

omg you update me with all my bolly gossip AND you know japanese... filmigirl, you are my hero! haha
yeah i saw new york and quite liked it actually! although i think saif and kareena are way better actors than john and katrina
and yes i am living in tokyo currently! :)

@sita-ji: yeah the stories of khuda ke liye and new york are really similar! i wouldn't be surprised if they did base some aspects of new york on khuda ke liye esp because kkl is so much older

TadyLovesDaniel said...

I really enjoyed the film...although i do have to say...i did feel a little uncomfortable with the whole terrorist aspect of it, specifically when Kirron's character is justifying the events that they are about to do, I feel I am a not informed enough to comment on these issues, especially when it is connected to other cultures, those of which i have very limited info on...But i've got to say Kareena and Viveck kick ass in this film...LOVE it!!!...I loved Saifu's Evil sexy guy look!!! I am in love..and I think his non facial expressions were worse in LoveAajKal...but oh well...It's too bad u didn't enjoy the film...

Note from Filmi Girl:

I love Bollywood - and all the ridiculous things that happen in Bollywood - but it doesn't mean that I can't occasionally make fun of various celebrities and films.

If you don't like my sense of humor, please just move on by - Trolls are not appreciated and nasty comments will be deleted.

xoxo Filmi Girl