Bollywood's fascination with dual roles dates back to its golden era, when Dilip Kumar, Dev Anand and Raj Kapoor reigned supreme. Recall HUM DONO [Dev Anand], RAM AUR SHYAM [Dilip Kumar], DO KALIYAN [Neetu Singh], ARADHANA [Rajesh Khanna], SEETA AUR GEETA [Hema Malini], MAUSAM [Sharmila Tagore], DON [Amitabh Bachchan], AAKHREE RAASTA [Amitabh Bachchan], CHAALBAAZ [Sridevi], KISHEN KANHAIYA [Anil Kapoor], JUDWAA [Salman Khan], KAHO NAA... PYAAR HAI [Hrithik Roshan], DON [Shah Rukh Khan], ROWDY RATHORE [Akshay Kumar]... the protagonist in those movies left an indelible impression on cineastes. Now Arjun Kapoor gets to portray a double role very early in his career... in his second film itself -- AURANGZEB.
Rumors are rife that AURANGZEB is the present-day version of Yash Chopra's immensely likable TRISHUL. With modifications of course, to suit the present-day sensibilities. Much earlier, when YRF unveiled the promo of the film, the comparisons with Chandra Barot's DON had gathered momentum. So what's the truth? Well, AURANGZEB does bring back memories of TRISHUL as well as DON, but the premise, setting and execution are poles apart.
AURANGZEB, a crime drama, focuses on the land mafia and the enmity between two authoritative factions: Police and mafia. The film marks the big screen debut of Atul Sabharwal, who directed a crime show [POWDER] for Yash Raj's television unit. The director knows the technicalities right, but he falters -- and falters big time -- in narrating a gripping story in a concise format. Resultantly, the film tests the patience of the spectator in the second hour and the impact of several brilliant moments gets washed away in the process.
A family of policemen... A family of gangsters... Under the guise of a respected citizen, Yashwardhan [Jackie Shroff], runs a parallel world, a world where he is the Emperor. To bring down a criminal, the law will have to now think like a criminal! When Vishal [Arjun Kapoor] is planted in Yashwardhan's world in place of Ajay [Arjun Kapoor], the lawmakers [Rishi Kapoor and Prithviraj] roll the dice and a sequence of events unravel something much more than what Vishal bargained for, as he finds himself in a predicament that puts him to test!
AURANGZEB catches your eye initially. There are numerous characters in this cat and mouse saga and the storytelling, although slow-paced, keeps the spectator glued to the proceedings. Atul, who has also penned the screenplay, focuses on drama more than action/violence and the back story of the prominent characters as well as the menacing games they indulge in results in an invigorating first hour. Atul makes sure he packages the narrative well with moments that, although predictable at times, stay with you.
Like most Hindi movies, AURANGZEB suffers from the curse of the second hour syndrome, for the film languishes and fumbles soon after the intermission. There are too many issues, frankly. First and foremost, the drama loses sheen as it proceeds. Two, the drama seems never-ending and with too many characters and too many things happening in the movie, what comes across is a hodgepodge. Even the culmination fails to give you a high. Adding to the woes is its lethargic pacing!
To give the credit where it's due, Atul handles the dramatic moments adroitly, but the effort to cram too many characters and episodes in the screenplay hits the second hour of the film hard. Dialogue, so crucial in a film that has drama as its core selling point, is punch-packed at times, but commonplace otherwise. There's no scope for music here and the absence of a popular score too is a deterrent. The film is well shot, with the DoP [N. Karthik Ganesh] filming the outdoors with flourish.
Rishi Kapoor is the lifeline of the enterprise. He charms his way into the spectator's minds with a spectacular performance. It's a delight to watch Jackie Shroff and Amrita Singh, a popular pair of the 1980s, after a hiatus in dominant parts. Jackie excels in his role, although he is sidelined subsequently. Amrita is super in a role that demands a scheming and manipulating woman.
Arjun Kapoor, who impressed critics and moviegoers alike in his debut film, gets to portray dual roles. The wild child is reminiscent of the part he portrayed in ISHAQZAADE, but the second role is sober and subdued. The youngster attempts to balance the dissimilar parts deftly, but falters in emotional moments. Newcomer Sasheh Agha gets to depict several bold scenes in her debut film and the newcomer seems quite comfortable and confident doing those.
Prithviraj, who debuted on the Hindi screen with AIYYAA, gets a meatier part this time, but the challenge lies in convincing the spectator that he looks his part of a North Indian. It's evident that the talented actor has polished his diction and speaks his lines effortlessly. Otherwise too, his performance is effectual. Deepti Naval is wasted. Ditto for Anupam Kher. Tanvi Azmi is efficient. Swara Bhaskar is limited to a few scenes. Sikander Berry doesn't get much scope.
On the whole, AURANGZEB has a great premise, but great plots don't, generally, translate into great films. This one's way too lengthy and mediocre [second hour] to leave any kind of an impression whatsoever. Disappointing!