Sunday, December 06, 2009


Somewhere in Mahesh Bhatt's 1987 release, ‘Kaash’, Dimple Kapadia lets out a heart-rending scream when her teenage son passes away. She is joined in a similar show of grief by her husband played by Jackie Shroff. It was a high melodrama moment, and Bhatt pulled it off well enough, but in the end it was loud, a tad over the top and almost demanding of the audience’s sympathy. Refreshingly, for a similarly themed film, we are spared such moments in R.Balki’s ‘Paa’.

Nothing new about the story at all, but it’s the treatment that’s wonderfully disarming. Balki’s fascination with terminally ill children continues in this ‘dying-kid-reunites-the-parents’ plot and to mix things up, he uses a rare genetic condition (this is no ‘Taare Zameen Par’, so the disease is only incidental and we're spared lengthy sermonizing), Bachchan Sr. to play a small boy, sharply edited flashbacks and brilliant dialogue. And the final product is a warm, charming and heartwarming little film, almost a celluloid equivalent of the perfect cup of Darjeeling with an old friend, on a rainy day.

Amitabh Bachchan’s Auro is indeed the star of the film. With a new face, a new voice and a twinkling sense of humor, Bachchan’s Auro is as sensitive as he is precocious and the film’s writers leave all the best lines for him. And they work almost every time. Its Auro’s world that’s so enchanting, so much so that the film could have been entirely about his life, his school friends and his aspirations and worked just as well. But then they all say we need a plot.

So we have the parents Abhishek Bachchan and Vidya Balan, then both students, who find themselves at crossroads in their relationship, when they realize that they have a kid on the way. However, papa wants to be a cool politician and suggests abortion. Mama predictably tells papa not to preach and exits stage left from his life, saying, ‘I’m keeping my baby.’ Baby grows up to be Auro, and accidentally meets his father at a school function, thereby unwittingly paving the way for his long estranged parents to reunite. Weirdly enough, for a film advertised as a father son story, it’s actually the boy’s relationship with the ladies in his house, his mother and his grandmother that are more endearing to watch. Bachchan shares crackling chemistry with both Balan and Naag, as well as with the child actor who plays his best friend Vishnu.

But this isn't a perfect film by any stretch of the imagination. Abhishek Bachchan’s political machinations are distracting after a point and screen time devoted to his battle with the media is wholly unnecessary. An uneven Paresh Rawal, as Auro’s grandfather doesn’t add anything to the proceedings apart from a couple of funny one-liners. Maestro Ilaiyaraaja’s music, while soothing, could have been used to make more of an impact, the violin laden background score notwithstanding.

Cheerful, poignant, sensitive and intelligent, ‘Paa’ is great fun.




No comments: