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By: Taran Adarsh, IndiaFM

Thursday, March 23, 2006

The plight of senior citizens has been depicted in a number of Bollywood films in the past, but the ones that stand out are Zindagi [Sanjeev Kumar, Mala Sinha], Avtaar [Rajesh Khanna, Shabana Azmi], Swarg [Rajesh Khanna], Jaisi Karni Waisi Bharni [Kader Khan] and Baghban [Amitabh Bachchan, Hema Malini].

But Umar, directed by Karan Razdan, goes a step further. It not only looks at the atrocities committed by their kith and kin during their sunset years, but the story also has a crime angle running parallel.

The problem is, while the story of the senior citizens holds interest, the crime part doesn't. If the emotional story of the three aged people [Kader Khan, Prem Chopra, Satish Kaushik] appears straight out of life/identifiable and moves you, the crime story fails to thrill you. It actually stands out like an island.

Director Karan Razdan, who is also credited with the script, may be keen to convey a message with Umar, but ideally he should've stuck to the senior citizens' issue, avoiding juxtaposing the murder mystery angle to the main plot. The conclusion, therefore, is that Umar neither makes a strong statement about the plight of the senior citizens, nor does it emerge as a murder mystery that keeps you on the edge.

Umar revolves around three senior citizens -- Iqbal [Kader Khan], Chandrakant [Prem Chopra] and Rajpal [Satish Kaushik] -- who live in London with their families. Insensitively treated by their children, all three are humiliated and insulted all the while.

Enter Shashank [Jimmy Shergill], who has grown up to respect his elders. Treating the senior citizens with affection and respect, Shashank quickly wins a place in their hearts. Shashank falls in love with Sapna [Shenaz Treasurywala], who happens to be the daughter of a rich businessman [Shakti Kapoor]. But Sapna's dad does not approve of this relationship because of Shashank's status.

Shashank gets falsely framed for the murder of his lady-boss. The court finds him guilty and puts him behind bars. Shocked by the sudden change of developments, the three senior citizens plan his escape when he is being taken to prison. Shashank manages to escape, but is shot in the process.

Shashank is given shelter in Iqbal's house, but when Chandrakant and Rajpal's children find out about this, they complain to the cops, hoping to win a reward in the process. To avoid any unpleasantness between the senior citizens and their respective families, Shashank decides to leave. Instead, all three walk out with Shashank. How the senior citizens clear Shashank's name forms the remainder of the story.

There are two stories running parallel in Umar. The very start of the film, when the three senior citizens help Jimmy escape from the British police, gives an impression that there's more to the film. And as the story advances, you realize that besides the main plot [senior citizens], there's a love story [Jimmy-Shenaz] and revenge angle [Dalip Tahil] attached to it.

Umar appeals intermittently. And the portions you carry home are the ones that have the children ill-treating their parents, which truly move you. At least two sequences stand out: The first involves Satish Kaushik, who gets an attack of asthama while playing with his grandchildren and the second, when a heated confrontation takes place in Prem Chopra's house and in a fit of fury, the son slaps the father. Even the sequence at an office, when the English officials keep Kader Khan waiting endlessly and Khan lashes out when pushed against the wall, is worthy of note.

But the post-interval portions, when the crime saga takes over and the three senior citizens become fugitives and along with Jimmy go on a hiding, takes the graph of the film down. And things continue to deteriorate right till the climax, when they confront Dalip Tahil in his house. The end is truly formulaic!

As the writer of the enterprise, Karan Razdan falters because the crime angle in the story is highly predictable. His direction, however, is inspiring at places, but bland at times. There's not much scope for music in the film [Shameer Tandon], but the one track that has a haunting feel to it is the Jagjit Singh rendered 'Khumari Chaddh Ke Utar Gayi'. The Manna Dey track is okay, but its placement in the story is weird. Imagine the fugitives suddenly breaking into a song when the fact is that the cops as well as the villains are thirsting for their blood. Cinematography is eye-pleasing, with the locales of London giving the film a fresh look. Dialogues are well worded at times.

Umar rests on the three protagonists -- Kader Khan, Prem Chopra and Satish Kaushik. Khan is capable, conveying the pathos through his eyes. He is very believable, enacting his role with precision. It's after a long time that Chopra gets a role that does justice to his talent and he takes full advantage of it. He is excellent. Kaushik is highly creditable and the only thing you want to ask the actor is, why isn't he doing more films as an actor?

Jimmy Shergill is first-rate. Although the main story is focused on the above-named actors, the youngster manages to make his presence felt. Shenaz Treasurywala is stiff. She needs to be natural in front of the camera. Shakti Kapoor is efficient, especially in the sequence when he invites Jimmy over to his house and the three senior citizens land up one after the other. Dalip Tahil is alright.

On the whole, Umar is made with noble intentions, but the message does not come across firmly. In view of the fact that the film has been released with low-key promotion and a not-too-happening cast, its business prospects will remain on the lower side.

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