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<i>Ahista Ahista</i> - Review

By: Taran Adarsh, IndiaFM

Friday, August 18, 2006

In the 1970s and 1980s, Hrishikesh Mukherjee and Basu Chatterjee made films that were realistic and, in industry terms 'neat-n-clean', but not arthouse. They catered to the popular tastes, relying more on substance than star appeal. Even if the films featured A-list stars, the actors were cast in roles that were devoid of star mannerisms.

In a way, Ahista Ahista also belongs to the Hrishi-da/Basu-da genre. The storyline is simple, the situations seem straight out of life and just when you thought that the film would charter the routine path, the twist in the story takes you by surprise.

But there's a flip side too...

The setting and also the content of the film -- even though well made and laced with interesting performances -- is ideally suited for [select] multiplexes and also television/DVD circuit. In today's times, when the economics of the industry has undergone a drastic change, with movie-going experience correlated with big-budget ventures mainly, a medium-budget film sans glamour would find it difficult to float.

Ankush [Abhay Deol] scrapes a living by acting as a witness in the marriage registrar's office in Delhi. Megha [Soha Ali Khan] has run away from her home in Nainital to marry her love Dheeraj [Shayan Munshi]. But Dheeraj doesn't turn up at the appointed hour.

Ankush helps Megha get a job at an old age home so that she has the security of a roof over her head. As time passes by, Megha realizes that there's more to life than her boyfriend. Simultaneously, Ankush realizes that the Rs. 10,000 loan he had taken for Megha's sake was sitting heavy on him. He ends up as a bank's representative who opens savings accounts at a commission. Ankush feels that he has changed because of Megha and her faith in him.

Everything seems to be falling in place for Ankush. A relationship of sorts develops between the two and Megha decides to leave her past and Dheeraj behind and embrace the future with Ankush. At this point, Dheeraj returns. He is persistent in his search for Megha. Ankush's new-found world crumbles...

Ahista Ahista doesn't give an impression that it's directed by a first-timer [Shivam Nair]. Shivam's storytelling is simple and strikes a fine balance between dramatic and light moments. A number of sequences, especially between Abhay and Soha, are sensitively treated. If the emotional scenes strike a chord and a few dramatic portions are shot with flourish [Abhay slapping Shakeel Khan], a couple of light moments [Abhay pretends that he has come to meet a senior citizen in the old age home and the conversation that follows] succeed in bringing a smile on your face.

But the film is not without its share of weaknesses. First and foremost, the story unravels at a lethargic pace. It gets so slow-paced that you actually start feeling restless after a point. Besides, there's no scope for songs in the narrative and the ones in the second hour look completely forced. In fact, a few songs can easily be deleted to make the goings-on crisper.

But the biggest flaw is its climax. If you're a true-blue Bollywood fan who wants the lead pair to unite and lead a life of bliss, you'd be disappointed here. When Shayan explains his point of view, Soha says she's torn between the two men and finds herself at crossroads. So far, so good. But why does Soha return to her first love when she has moved on in life? Does that mean that her feelings for Abhay were phony and superficial? Was she using him or playing with his emotions all through? That makes Soha appear like an opportunist and that is a glaring defect from the writing point of view.

Himesh Reshammiya's music is soft and easy on the ears, but the songs look like a forced ingredient. Cinematography [Prakash Kutty] is superb. It's refreshing to watch Delhi on the big screen yet again [after Rang De Basanti].

Abhay Deol is a complete natural. His boy-next-door looks make the character more believable, more convincing. In minimal makeup and sporting a simple look all through, Soha catches your attention once again. The petite actress is only getting better with every film. Shayan Munshi is competent in a small role. Shakeel Khan, as Abhay's Muslim friend, is good. Sohrab Ardeshir is theatrical. Kamini Khanna is loud.

On the whole, Ahista Ahista has decent merits. But lack of face-value will prove to be a stumbling block, from the box-office point of view. Its fate will depend on a strong word of mouth publicity, which might help in select multiplexes only.

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