When a celebrated movie critic, known mostly for his finesse in shredding films
apart, makes a film himself, you can't help wondering what he himself might
have written about it. We start with a couple of lines of our perception of
what Khalid would've had to say about Fiza had he himself not made it:
"Take a cauldron called riots, put in a star the nation is drooling over
and 2 other talented actresses, garnish it with a promising storyline and great
music, but stir with a ladle that's driven by the rival forces of a critic's
sensibilities and box-office diktaks, and what do you have? A mish-mash of some
emotional hodge-podge, intended focus on an unintended locus and great performances
even in grating situations, and, on the whole, a good flick that could've been
more slick." What say, Mr. Mohammed?
A showcase for the directorial abilities of Khalid Mohammed and the physique
of Hrithik Roshan, Karisma's most challenging role to date and Jaya Bachchan's
return to celluloid - Fiza tries be all these, while, most importantly,
it also tries to make a poignant comment on the communal riots of the early
nineties - in short, something for everyone. Boy, was that ambitious or what?
Predictably, it doesn't quite do justice to all. Something that, if achieved,
would have put it miles ahead of most other contemporary movies. Having said
that, it doesn't leave you high and dry, either.
A great score, intense performances and taut direction - when not bogged down
by a facile screenplay - combine to make this movie an emotionally-charged affair.
But there is an inconsistency in this very emotional streak. It is built up
properly, only to be lost to trite incidents, and is re-built with painstaking
effort to meet the same fate all over again. You need to be patient with the
film for it to hit the right notes.
Talking about notes, all the poignancy of the narrative has been derived from
most of the songs, which turn out to be one too many in the end. Now where does
that leave our high-profile director? I guess the box-office diktats were weighing
heavily on him. How else does one explain a poor Fiza dancing in leather tights,
just when we are set for an escalating climax?
As for the plot, it is a refreshingly different one - something that puts the
angry young man in the backdrop of communal tensions, but then underplays the
'angry' bit for the most part. Amaan (Hrithik Roshan) goes missing in a communal
riot, leaving his sister and mother (Jaya Bachchan) with nothing more than a
vestige of a hope of his coming back.
Actually, this was meant to be a story of Fiza (Karisma Kapoor), the sister
of this missing young man. But as the second half gets underway with Fiza bringing
back Amaan (a little too easily for comfort), it is plain that there will be
a shift in the equations. After all, the purported mission of Fiza has been
accomplished, and it's now time to delve into the psyche of the other character.
Doesn't matter as long as it makes for great drama. But no, it doesn't turn
out as expected.
Though dramatic, the story never unravels the real dilemma of the guy. Is it
guilt that is harking back from his past? Or is it fear? Whatever it is, it
doesn't quite stop the guy from pulling himself deeper into the rot. The terrorist
organization that adopts him is strangely secular in its claims, but it isn't
clear as to what they are out to accomplish. In fact, the climax has our hero
out on a mission to negate an unholy political nexus. Now this is done supposedly
to avoid another communal uprising, but it seems to be the surest way to incite
The biggest let down is the part where Fiza is out looking for her brother.
Coming up against characters (read politicians) that are convenient (convenience
is often the name of the game here) take-offs on the real ones, she is made
to mouth some all-too-familiar dialogues about the secular credentials of the
country. It is to Karisma's credit that she stands out in the part. Making the
best of an extended footage, she does well in the emotional scenes.
Hrithik looks the confident performer that he is, with appropriate shades of
intensity. Jaya Bachchan is the real prize here, as she essays the role of tragic
mother like very few have in the long history of Hindi cinema (don't bring Mother
India in here). The point is that she is very believable, and credit should
go to Khalid Mohammed for giving her ample scope in this movie.
As for Khalid Mohammed, he has definitely done a very good job for a first-timer,
and he would be much the wiser about the nitty-gritty of making a film. Poor
guy, one is forced to believe that he was under a lot of pressure to please
everyone, apart from himself.