Tony (Govinda) is a happy-go-lucky tourist guide who enjoys his job in the picturesque town of Malaga, in Goa. One day, a soothsayer tells him that a light-eyed princess from across the seas will enter his life and change it forever.
And sure enough, while waiting at the airport for prospective customers, he bumps into Sonia (Aishwarya Rai). She is gorgeous, she has just arrived from Austria and she has light eyes! Tony decides that she is his princess and appoints himself as her tourist guide. But Sonia has not come to Malaga for a vacation; she has come to search for her mother's grave.
The ever-obliging Tony is only too happy to take his beautiful 'Madam Memsaab' around town, helping her in her quest. By now he is totally smitten by her, much to the dismay of his childhood friend, Nina (Namrata Shirodkar), who has always loved him.
Sonia, who enjoys Tony's amusing and charming company, is blissfully unaware of Tony's true feelings for her. Just when she is about to say goodbye to Tony, she spots Prem (Jackie Shroff). Sonia is stunned.
In one moment, her entire world turns upside down. What happens next?
Tips Films' ALBELA, directed by Deepak Sareen, is an apt case of body beautiful, minus soul! The initial reels are inspired by RAJA HINDUSTANI, wherein the heroine lands up in a small town, since her mother hailed from this town, and as soon as she comes out of the airport, the first person she bumps into is a cabbie (here, he is a guide!).
The premise of the story is of the heroine arriving all the way from Austria to Malaga to search for her mother's grave, but all she does throughout the first half is look pretty, wear designer outfits, run around trees, learn to ride a motorcycle, do sight-seeing? conveniently forgetting why she came to the place in the first place.
There is a ray of hope at the interval point, when she spots Jackie Shroff, but the post-interval portions don't contribute in uplifting the graph of the film. The goings-on get tedious and at times, are so stretched that the viewer gets unresponsive.
What actually goes against the film is the romance between Jackie Shroff and Aishwarya Rai in the second half. The affair is hardly appealing and the grounds that prompt Ash to drop Jackie (in the flashback!) don't gel with the modern scenario, since it looks conservative. Even otherwise, the tender moments between Jackie and Ash are far from exciting.
Another factor that goes against the film is that the songs are unevenly placed. Most of the songs are dream sequences and have been incorporated in the plot because Hindi films are incomplete without them. Though the film has three lilting numbers (the title track, 'Chunri' and 'Kaho To Zara Choom Lu'), not one song can be singled out as a hit item.
Deepak Sareen's choice of script leaves a lot to be desired and his story telling is devoid of stimulating moments. The dramatic scenes are frail and the poignant ones disappoint and fail to strike a chord.
It's regrettable that a writer of the calibre of Honey Irani has come up with a script that is slapdash and lifeless. The screenplay has glaring loose ends, which dilute the overall impact of the film. To cite instances:
* Ash having been brought up in Austria, in a modern society, succumbs to her father's (Saeed Jaffrey) pressures. This looks absolutely flimsy and cannot be digested.
* Saeed Jaffrey accuses Ash's deceased mom of leaving them in a lurch and returning to India soon after Ash is born. But, in the end, when truth dawns upon Jaffrey that she was suffering from an incurable disease, he has a change of heart instantly. Now this looks far from convincing!
* In the climax, Govinda suddenly realises Namrata's love for him, when he hears her voice in a toy (!!!). He makes a complete about-turn and goes back to Namrata, leaving Ash abandoned. Moreover, why was he carrying a toy in the first place, one just can't fathom.
Thanks to a weak script, none of the performances rise beyond the average mark. Govinda is loud and goes overboard at times. His dress sense is equally outrageous. Aishwarya Rai is plastic in some scenes, but makes a sincere attempt at times. Jackie Shroff and Namrata Shirodkar don't get much scope to showcase their talent. Saeed Jaffrey hams.
Manmohan Singh's cinematography is breath-taking. The locales of Austria and Mauritius are a visual treat. Dialogues are alright at places. Editing should've been crisper. The length should be trimmed by at least 20 minutes. Production values are grand. The producers have spent lavishly, which reflects on the screen.
On the whole, ALBELA has just one factor going in its favour ? the fresh combination of Govinda and Aishwarya Rai ? which has helped the film take a good start, but poor direction and poorer script will mar its prospects after the initial craze declines. Its fall is inevitable!