No Great Expectations Please..

Abhishek Kapoor
Writer - Director

Supratik Sen

Movie Review
Fitoor:No Great Expectations Please..

No Great Expectations, Please..

The movie is loosely based on the novel ‘Great Expectations’ by Charles Dickens, however, if great is what you’re expecting from ‘Fitoor’ then curb your expectations pronto!

The movie has a really abrupt beginning with Muazzam (Ajay Devgan in a cameo in the character of Abel Magwitch) whom we learn is a terrorist, grabbing this cute, rosy-cheeked boy (Mohammed Abrar as Noor, a.k.a. the Dickensian Pip) in the stillness of a snowy night, dragging him along a bridge, smacking him and demanding food from him - none of which makes much sense. In tune with the book, the boy, who lives with his irascible older sister and soft-hearted brother-in-law, runs along home and quickly bundles up some food for the bad guy. This Noor seems something of a Jack-of-all-trades; at the age of thirteen he can ride a scooter, row a shikhara, muck out stables and, of course, turn out stunning works of art.

One day, his brother-in-law is called to Begum Hazrat’s (Tabu as Miss Havisham) house for some repair work. Noor accompanies him and that’s how he happens to see the pretty, snooty, adopted daughter Firdaus (Tunisha Sharma) bas, phir kya, Noor is fida and an undying fitoor (passion) is born.

Since the story is set in Kashmir for some reason, one can expect a bunch of cliches. The first is when Muazzam is depicted as a terrorist and the Army surrounds his hide-out, the second is a mandatory bomb blast that kills Noor’s sister - this comes so suddenly in a movie hitherto so slow that it’s barely chugging along, that the audience literally jerked out of their chairs in alarm!

The opium-addicted Begum, in one of her whims, decides to send Firdaus away to London for further studies. Years pass, and Noor grows up into this tall, six-packed, hamesha stubbled guy (Aditya Roy Kapur.) Getting back to the book now, an unknown benefactor decides to sponsor Noor’s budding art career and so our mountain lad finds himself amid Delhi’s pretentious hi-so crowd, represented by art dealer Leena (Lara Dutta.) Following the pattern of cliches, Noor is at a random party where he bumps into the grown-up Firdaus, all svelte and leggy now (Katrina Kaif in the character of Estella.) Noor has this perpetual puppy-dog expression around Firdaus, leading her to reprimand him more than once: “Noor, ghoorna bandh karo!” At any rate, our chappie is a success; in between actually creating some paintings (cliche alert: lots of chinar leaves) this boy from the Kashmir backwaters is able to speak English, guzzle wine and pop champagne corks with the best of them! Firdaus has a quick dalliance with him but remembers quickly enough that she is engaged to Bilal (Rahul Bhat) who is the son of a Pakistani (yep, we are back with the cliches) minister. Noor appeals to Begum khaala, who appears to be playing a cat-and-mouse game with his tender heart. It is still a firm nyet from mercenary Firdaus, so Noor heads for London where he’s been invited to exhibit. Here, he bumps into Muazzam again, who reveals that he is the unknown benefactor. A distraught Noor shouts at him that he doesn’t want his money and that his (Noor’s) whole life has been a conspiracy (ehh??) storms out to have a showdown with the Begum and then proceeds to destroy his works of art. Meanwhile, the Begum has tottered out and somehow met with an untimely end, so the next scene has the whole merry gang once again back in good ole Kashmir for the graveyard scene where, predictably, it’s snowing, as it has done pretty much through the movie. Firdaus, on the other hand, is thawing, and she runs off to Noor, clad in nothing but a delicate white gharara, thus showing that Love’s Labour is never Lost (borrowing freely from Shakespeare.)

Tabu has a parallel role to the female lead and has done a marvellous job in spite of being handicapped by the director’s shortsightedness and a script with more holes than cheese. The actor has emoted the jilted, melancholic lover beautifully, albeit with mercurial, sometimes bewildering swings, hampered by the fact that the script tells all in a speedy flashback post interval. It has not been brought out well just why her character is messing around with Noor’s emotions, encouraging him on one hand while discouraging her daughter on the other. Tabu looks very good in the first half of the movie; later, she yo-yo’s from being in a wheelchair with glucose bag attached looking like Death warmed up (don’t ask ME, I’m just the poor mutt who went to review this movie!) to having cakey pancake and bags under her eyes.

I have never thought much of Katrina Kaif’s acting capabilities and ‘Fitoor’ does nothing to disprove this. Apart from her red mane which has been highlighted (sic!) extensively in the movie’s promotions, she is fairly wooden throughout, and looks older than her hero, although she does carry off the required hoity-toityness. Aditya Roy Kapur has one stock expression pretty much through most of the movie. He really needs to take dialogue delivery classes. I can never understand why a) a man shaves his chest and b) having done so, why doesn’t he keep at it instead of showing off an unsightly stubble there?!

Rahul Bhat has done a most commendable job, so has Kunaal Khyaan as Noor’s friend, Arif. I have no idea why Aditi Rao Hydari was chosen to play the young Hazrat. I mean, sure, she looks all soulful and doe-eyed but one would think it wouldn’t be that hard to use proper makeup and soft lighting to get Tabu to do this, rather than confuse us with another actor in the melee. Lara Dutt is back to her trim self yet manages to look somewhat matronly. Both the children - Abrar and Sharma - have performed creditably.

Continuity is extremely jerky. When Noor and Firdaus decide to have their night of passion in his house (according to Bollywood, no love story is complete these days without clinging kisses and heaving bodies) she is wearing a neat, lacy red number. However, the next morning, she gets dressed in some creamy, belted outfit. If I’m not mistaken, the bruise near the young Noor’s mouth inflicted by Muazzam, changes sides too.

Cinematography by Anay Goswamy is a delight, at least, the Kashmir and Poland locales are. The music by Amit Trivedi (lyrics - Komail Shayan, Swanand Kirkire) is soft, although no track is particularly outstanding, not even the much-touted ‘Pashmina.’ The background score gets almost macabre sometimes (Hitesh Sonik.) Editing (Deepa Bhatia) could have been infinitely improved; the pace is somnolent in the first half and speeds up in the second.

Directed by Abhishek Kapoor, the screenplay is a joint effort between him and Supratik Sen. Fitoor’ goes far in showing that, Vishal Bharadwaj notwithstanding, it is not everybody’s cup of tea to adapt a classic AND do justice to it. Although Kapoor has left out the Dickensian twist that reveals Estella is actually Magwitch’s daughter, he amply makes up by adding in loops and whirls that leave us quite confounded, such as that Bilal’s father had once been Hazrat’s suitor, except that she of course had been in love with some other unsuitable person. In the book, Pip falls into debt after having spurned Magwitch’s benevolence however, this being Bollywood, our hero remains at status quo having charmed London’s art scene. What is not brought out well therefore is why, since he is financially quite well established (departing from the book now) the Begum and Firdaus still don’t find him eligible enough. I agree that ‘Great Expectations’ runs into a few hundred pages and therefore, is better able to explain several points, such as Pip’s disgust at finding a convict his benefactor, or Miss Havisham’s eccentricities, or even her manipulating the young lovers because she herself had been jilted, which ‘Fitoor’ is unable to do in about two hours. However, an adaptation should take the basic premise into account and then work in its several cinematic tangents. Kapoor presumes today’s Facebook generation to have actually read Charles Dickens - a ‘Great Expectation’ in itself!


   Punam Mohandas

Punam Mohandas is a film buff, a journalist, an author, an accomplished travel writer and an expert on South Asia. She also writes columns on film personalities. She has lived and worked in India, Dubai and Bangkok.

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