Going by its invasive promotional blitzes, Kurbaan, so far, has been more about the lead pair's real-life relationship than anything else. And that was probably the only way to advertise a tragedy that does much neither for impatient audiences looking for a good time, nor for audiences who come looking for a point to their cinema.
You won't walk into Kurbaan expecting a feel-good entertainer of course - blood streaking down Saif's bare chest hardly suggests fluff. However, it loses out probably because of its conflict of identity - it's too melodramatic to be a thriller - with a little help from the fact that it's a tragedy.
Ehsaan Khan (Saif Ali Khan), who's joined as a professor at a university in Delhi, falls in love with Avantika (Kareena Kapoor), another teacher there. They get married and move to New York, settling in an Indian neighbourhood.
Their neighbours are a stiflingly orthodox Muslim family of Afghan-Pakistani origins, and while Avantika sniffs signs of domestic violence behind their walls, she actually unearths a little terrorist ring operating in their basement. Following an even more horrifying disclosure, she's blackmailed into silence.
Somehow, the story manages to catch the attention of Riyaaz (Vivek Oberoi), a journalist who loses his girlfriend Rehana (a ravishing Dia Mirza in a brief role) in a plane explosion that the terrorists masterminded. Riyaaz goes undercover to pull the sheets off the racket, pretending to be a fundamentalist himself.
Kurbaan's sketchiness then starts peeking out from underneath all the gloss. For the most part, it seems like the terrorist unit across the road is carrying out some personal vendetta through a cottage industry - they're angry with America, but don't seem to have backing from any of the bigger set-ups. It's unrealistic that with the infrastructure they have they actually hoodwink US security and intelligence, and bomb planes carrying high-profile political delegations to the Middle-East and plan multiple explosions across New York's train network.
Uncomfortably identical to New York
, Kurbaan tries to convey the other side of the story of what actually breeds terrorism, including possibly in your own backyard, if you're living in the US. However, it does not go beyond stating the obvious - that the Muslim world is hurt that the West is killing so many innocents, and that if something is not urgently done, then volcanoes of resentment will not cease to erupt. The film literally does not go into any depth beyond that sentence, and it's this lack of intellectual sophistication that ultimately pushes the flick into the wannabe-art-movie category.
Also, it's actually unfortunate that all the banter
about the chemistry of the star cast should be overshadowing the chemistry itself. Kurbaan even expects you to take over from their much-marketed real-life relationship - the romance is a quick-fix collection of vignettes, as Ehsaan and Avantika fall in love, in a pretty non-existent romance, at first sight. And the relationship hasn't been written very well in the second half, in which there's a need for much more intensity in terms of dialogues at least.
As for the sizzle, the bare back you see in the posters doesn't appear until the middle of the second half, and the rest of what's expected is wrapped up in a few smooches scattered across the movie.
Saif quite carries the film on his shoulders, and does a brilliant job of it. Kareena is good, too, and Vivek Oberoi has a full-fledged role that he seems enthusiastic in. Om Puri has a clichÃ©d role as Bhai Jaan, the head of the terrorist ring, and does look bored. Kirron Kher stands out more for an alien wardrobe and some unintentional wit, than for a strongly scripted character.
There aren't many songs woven into the narrative, except for 2 lacing the initial romance, and one more in the second half. As for the visuals, the flick is mostly set abroad, and as it progresses, there are a lot of Americans coming in. A bit of gore, like the scene in which Ehsaan stitches up his open bullet wound, could put off some audiences.
It's not run-of-the-mill, it's a brooding story, and it has one very brief bold bedroom scene. If that's all you need for a film to qualify as time well spent, then maybe you could go for Kurbaan.