By: Subhash K. Jha, IndiaFM
Monday, July 02, 2007
They all hug each other quite often. The men hug up-front, unabashedly. The ladies creep up on the men from behind them and hold them close to their heart.
In Apne heart and craft come together to create an amazing graph. Apne is a very warm film. It exudes the comforting; heady scent of lives lived in a ruptured repose manifested in scenes that are written with the lavish and meticulous exactitude of emotions invested prudently in long-term action plans.
Yes, the narration is lengthy, sometimes tedious. What, for example, was the need for that ridiculous 'rock' song with one of Bobby Deol's hands in his pocket? The length is understandable in a film that puts forward Dharmendra, playing a Punjabi Stallone who has been disgraced in the boxing championship, and his troubled relationship with an elder son (Sunny) who won't box, and his younger son (Bobby) who can't.
Caught between the 'can't' and the 'won't' of lives that share tears and chuckles as destiny reigns hard blows on the knuckles, this portrait of bonafide emotions is free of naqal. Full marks to Neeraj Pathak's screenplay for creating a near-perfect vehicle for the trio of Punjab da Puttars who excel in shedding tears, together and apart. Papa Dharam and his two sons share another common ground. They seem to suffer a perpetual bad- hair days.
Let not the awkward toupees and hairstyles come in the way of appreciating the deep-focused melodrama's undulating motions of light and shade. Cinematographer Kabir Lal paints the frames in colours several shades deeper than life. And that's the way it is meant to be.
Though the ladies are engagingly portrayed (Shilpa Shetty as the introverted Sunny's exuberant wife reminds you of Kajol in Karan Johar's Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham). This is a patriarchal story, populated with men who fight for self, family, country and morality on territory as far-ranging as the terrace of a Punjabi village, the boxing ring in New York and most importantly, the human heartland where most of life's most ironic games are played by God and man.
Other recent films like Rahul Rawail's Jo Bole So Nihaal, Gurinder Chadha's Bride&Prejudice and Vipul Shah's Namaste London have gone to Punjab and then onwards on a journey to the West to take stock of the moral waste-land.
Anil Sharma gets it right, in almost every frame. The stretched-out plot takes the Deols and their elegant women and surprisingly-restrained adversaries through several continents and time zones. Proving himself a master storyteller, Sharma never loses the threads of the plot as the characters scatter across the continents trying to restore family honour in hostile circumstances.
Yes, the narration gets excessively dramatic towards the end. But the magic of the real-life family being alchemized on screen is preserved until the very end. Let's stand and applaud Anil Sharma for attempting a theme so vast and dramatic showcasing two generations of Deol plunged into the vortex of a battle that takes them through several levels of emotions and revelations to arrive to a kind of liberating denouement that comes our way in the movies once in a while.
Indeed this Anil Sharma's Gadar of the boxing ring takes hungering leaps into the hemisphere of the Deols' most precious family ties. Sharma picks up threads of lingering sorrow and abiding ties to weave a tale that's as sweet tender strong and resonant as any grandma's tale about the simple god-fearing family which didn't buckle under pressure. It's not the content as much the tightly-clenched treatment that gives the film a feeling of uncompromised ardour.
Swarming with characters and over-sentimental songs about family ties, Apne manages to hold its head high above the intrinsically treacly situation that Anil Sharma creates for the Deols.
The performances are fine as long as you aren't looking for Brandos and Azmis in the cast. The immensely-gifted Victor Banerjee as the Deols' sounding board is the odd one our specially when he materializes with prayer beads on screen to pray for Bobby's quick recovery.
This could have been one more mawkish attempt to bring together a family that suffers and celebrates together. Instead Apne is our own Rocky. In fact, better. Not only are the boxing sequences first-rate, the emotions that the macho men invest into each other's lives makes them look like giants who think big and act for the camera fearlessly.