Taal (1999)

63

Taal (1999)
Cast: Anil Kapoor, Akshaye Khanna, Aishwarya Rai, Amrish Puri
Director: Subash Ghai
Nutshell: Ghai’s follow up to the lukewarm Pardes touches upon many similar themes, but the end result is another disappointment.

 

As with most of Ghai’s films, the storyline follows a well-worn path. Akshaye Khanna, ‘son of the richest man in England’, returns to his native village and proceeds to fall in love with the daughter of a respected folk singer.

As expected the course of love does not run smoothly and the families inevitably fall out resulting in the two lovers being torn apart. Thrown into this is a third angle to the triangle. Anil Kapoor plays Vikrant Kapu, the effusive and hugely successful composer who seeks to hone and market the singing talents of Aishwarya. As expected, Kapoor falls for his would be star leaving the film to somehow resolve the dramatic complications that develop as Akshaye tries to win back Aishwarya while Anil actively courts her.

The most successful and enjoyable Bollywood films of the last few years have been those that have successfully been able to present old wine in a shiny new bottle. While Taal is definitely old wine, Ghai fails on almost every count, to bring the required freshness to the film.

The story is littered with threads that ran through Pardes. Foreign returned Indian boy falls for ‘homegrown’ girl. There is also the dichotomy between urban and rural values, with the ‘urban’ characters being far less sympathetically portrayed. All in all it’s a terribly hackneyed and formulaic effort.

Ghai is also not helped particularly by the performers in Taal. Akshaye Khanna, who showed immense potential in his earlier few films, looks sadly jaded. Obviously a talented actor, Khanna’s under stated style backfires in this role causing his character to appear arrogant and cocky rather than quietly confident of his love.

Aishwarya Rai certainly looks the part and while her acting prowess has increased there is some way to go before she is able to make full use of the type of role that she had in Taal. Nevertheless, Taal is a definite improvement over her earlier outings.

And what of the great Anil Kapoor – winner of the Filmfare Award for Best Supporting Actor for his role in Taal. Personally, I find Anil is at his best when asked to under play and keep his ebullience in check. As the larger than life, showman Vikrant Kapu, Anil Kapoor goes over the top.

Still at least it’s a colourful (Kapu’s dress sense is particularly good – note the berets) if rather loud performance. Govinda, who turned down the role, would have been more appropriate. In the supporting roles Amrish Puri does what is required of him and little more. It is a role that allows him little leeway. There is also the insufferable Alok Nath looking overjoyed, bemused, hurt and outraged in equal measure – so what’s new.

A word has to be said about the film’s climax as well. Meant to be the point when the film reaches its most crucial stage, Taal’s climax is a shocking mish mash, so drawn out that by the time the film actually finishes you are breathing a sigh of relief. Far from being the crowning glory it is the worst part of the film with absolutely no tension or drama. But it’s not all bad for Taal. The songs, courtesy A.R. Rehman are outstanding. Ghai also ensures that they are lavishly shot and well picturised making them the high point of the film. If there is anything worth watching the film for it would be the songs.

Apart from that the cinematography is excellent making the film at least look good. But the audio-visual achievements can’t hide the fact that Ghai is flogging a dead donkey. One last note – in the future could Coca Cola try and be a little more subtle in their sponsorship of a film??

The role of the soft drink almost deserves billing as a supporting actor!