Hollywood better run for cover. Their movies are being plundered left, right and center by the Baadshahs of Bollywood. Mansoor Khan, as we know, has a penchant for remakes of Hollwood classics. Kramer vs. Kramer provided the script for his last film, Akele Hum Akele Tum, and now it is the turn of Westside Story. On a much more serious note, even the harshest critics would concede that directing remakes is an art, which at least Mansoor Khan seems to have mastered - that is, within the Bollywood parameters.
Josh took a long time in making and a few glitches show through. The film is set in the Vasco town of Goa (not after Vasco da Gama, but one Alberto Vasco). Max (Shah Rukh) is some sort of xenophobe and leads a gang of hooligans, "Eagles", against "Bichoos", another such gang comprising of settlers led by Prakash (Sharad Kapoor). Each of them controls a part of the town and any breach of the border results in a fracas.
The confrontations between the two range from the comical to the macabre, with a song thrown in. Prakash's brother, Rahul (Chandrachur Singh), arrives from Bombay (this is 1980) and has dreams of opening a fast food shop. Before he does that, he falls for Max's twin sister, Shirley (Aishwarya). Shirley is as much of a prankster as Max is, and gives Rahul a hard time, for example, by letting loose rats in his bakery.
Eventually, she gives in to his charms and that creates the ground for one decisive onfrontation. But things are not as simple as that, for the script has a little more to offer. Prakash is also a hitman for the landgrabbers. Angered by the fact that he gets only a pittance compared to the guy who does the paperwork, he decides to go on his own.
The playground that demarcates the border for the two gangs is the only open space available in Vasco town. The challenge in front of him is to find out the owner or forge papers. Rahul persuades him to do the former and that adds a dimension in the past to the proceedings.
Like all other Mansoor Khan films, this one too has a youthful feel to it. But the screenplay, in the first half, meanders and does not have a proper focus. There are a few gaffes too. The line demarcating the territories of the two gangs lies in a playground, but the bakeries that each gang hangs out at face each other. So much for territorial integrity.
It's only in the second half that the drama begins to take a firm grip on your attention. However, the right proportion of the comic and the dramatic - such a vital aspect of Jo Jeeta Wohi Sikander - eludes Mansoor Khan. The pranks played by the "Eagle" gang are far from original. The romantic longing between Rahul and Shirley is not palpable either. The climax though, is suitably tense.
Shah Rukh and Mansoor pull off a coup of sorts when it comes to casting. Shah Rukh has shown a lot of sense in taking up a role that gives him enough scope to create an impact, without having to be present all the time. His romantic interest is Priya Gill but that is limited to a song and a few scenes where he flirts with her.
As for Mansoor, he had the maturity to let go of Aamir when the script demanded it. The raw charisma of Shah Rukh is central to Max's character. Even here, he comes into his own only in the second half. Aishwarya, after the initial bout of grinning and glaring, shows that she can emote too. Chandrachur and Sharad Kapoor do a passable job as well.
The dialogues are bland for the most part. Though some of the songs have you humming and tapping your feet, they crop up at the most inopportune moments.
Though the movie is entertaining, one can't help but be ambivalent towards it. Every aspect lacks that little something - an anchor to the excess josh. All the originality that the movie can boast about can be attributed to Westside Story.