Nasir Husain meets Karan Johar. That, in a nutshell, is MAIN HOON NA, which marks the directorial debut of accomplished choreographer Farah Khan.
Don't expect crossover, path-breaking or art cinema, in keeping with the changing times. MAIN HOON NA is not DIL CHAHTA HAI or KAL HO NAA HO either.
MAIN HOON NA is Bollywood hardcore commercial cinema at its best. It has just about everything for everyone -
- Songs to soothe your nerves.
- Emotions aplenty for the tender hearted.
- College campus romance holding tremendous appeal for the youth.
- Desi humour for the Hindustani janta to break into peals of laughter.
- Stunts to thrill those who feel Bollywood is incomplete without them.
- And yes, it also has the Indo-Pak friendship issue - so topical in today's times [there's no sermonizing or jingoism, thankfully!].
MAIN HOON NA has everything desi about it, except of course the packaging is very videshi. The soul is Indian, the exterior western.
MAIN HOON NA works and how!
Major Ram Sharma [Shah Rukh Khan] yearns to see the ambitious project Mission Milaap become a reality. A mission that will prove to be the dawn of a new tomorrow. Where long-standing enmity between two countries [India, Pakistan] will begin to see its end.
But some forces do not want that dawn to come. One of them is Raghavan [Suniel Shetty], who will do anything to prevent the strategic move. For this reason his devious shadow looms large over General Amarjeet Bakshi's daughter Sanjana [Amrita Rao], whose life is in danger.
But Ram will not allow dark actions to eclipse its bright future. To protect Sanjana, he goes to her college as a student. Here, fun and frolic conceal his real intent.
Will anyone here guess that he has just lit the funeral pyre of his martyr father Brigadier Shekhar Sharma [Naseeruddin Shah]? Ram also has to fulfil his father's last wish.
Strangely, the fulfilment of his wish also lies in this very college. Completing this mission will be no easy task, for it involves intense emotions and long-standing misunderstandings.
These two missions are now his life-blood. The weapon of one mission is gun and that of the other is love?
Loosely based on Alan Metter's BACK TO SCHOOL , MAIN HOON NA is one roller coaster ride that brings back memories of the 1970s cinema, when non-stop entertainment was the mantra of accomplished film-makers like Nasir Husain and Manmohan Desai.
Farah Khan seems inspired by the cinema of yore. She has penned a story not targeting those who wear their thinking caps while watching a film, but those who enter a cinema hall for unadulterated, paisa vasool entertainment. Where logic takes a backseat and all that matters is three hours of non-stop entertainment.
Her target audience is the hardcore masses and it shows at the very start of the film.
Farah Khan bares the three vital issues at the very start of the film: The Indo-Pak friendship issue and how the terrorists want to foil it, the father-son track and the estranged family [Naseeruddin Shah-SRK/Kiron Kher-Zayed Khan] and guarding a vulnerable teenager from the terrorists even if it means joining her college as a student [SRK-Amrita Rao].
But the actual fun begins when the protagonist joins the college and the sequences that follow. Though a number of college campus fares have been attempted post-KUCH KUCH HOTA HAI, you could hardly count the films that really stayed with you even after the show concluded.
MAIN HOON NA has some thoroughly enjoyable moments in the first half. There's a college principal with a weak memory [Boman Irani], there's a professor who can't get her pronunciations right [Bindu], there's another professor who spits every time he opens his mouth [Satish Shah] and of course, there's a new chemistry teacher who would give any Bollywood actress a run for her money [Sushmita Sen].
Besides, the narrative is laced with incidents that are clapworthy. Like the sequence when SRK rescues Zayed from falling off the roof or the MATRIX-like effect when Satish Shah confronts SRK in the professors' room.
If the first half has its share of fun and frolic, Farah Khan changes gears in the post-interval portions, when the focus shifts to the terrorists and their mission. Though the second half has several thrilling moments, the pace drops slightly because soon after the interval, the story stagnates but picks up with gusto when the terrorist [Suniel Shetty] enters the premises as the new professor.
The pace further gathers momentum when the estranged family [Kiron Kher, Zayed Khan] learns of SRK's true identity. Even the climax, though prolonged, is brilliantly executed, especially the violent confrontation between SRK and Shetty.
Farah Khan makes a sensational debut. Of course, she always knew the technicalities of film-making right, but her abilities come to the fore while filming the emotional moments. The sequences between Kiron Kher and SRK were akin to an examination for Farah because in moments like those the focal point is the emotional quotient and whether it strikes a chord or not. These moments clearly indicate that Farah knows her job well and if, in future, she attempts an emotional saga, she would be adept in handling that genre as well.
Another factor that needs to be illustrated is the fact that every actor, irrespective of his/her box-office status, has been given prominence in this enterprise, in keeping with his/her character. Although the super-star has produced this project, Farah doesn't go overboard in making him loom large in every frame.
Sequences like Zayed's emotional outburst - when the youngster does all the talking, while SRK remains a mute spectator or the violent confrontation between SRK and Shetty in the climax - when Shetty overpowers SRK, clearly indicates that the director knows where to draw the line. She hasn't gone fanatical in projecting SRK as a larger-than-life persona!
Farah also deserves marks for keeping the audience interest alive, courtesy her screenplay, where she shares the credit with Rajesh Sathi and Abbas Tyrewala. There are no loose ends in the film, barring the one reel soon after the interval, when the pace slackens slightly.
Anu Malik's music is a major asset. And the icing on the cake is that every song has been filmed amazingly. The pick of the lot is 'Tumse Milke Dil Ka' [filmed on Zayed-Amrita; a small portion on SRK-Sushmita], which in fact is one amongst the best songs of the year. The orchestration of this number is magical and Sonu Nigam's rendition is first-rate. The title track as well as 'Gori Gori' and 'Chale Jaise Hawayein' are three more gems, in terms of tune as well as execution.
Cinematography [V. Manikandan] is top class. Not only has the lensman made the characters look fabulous, every frame of the enterprise has been given a glossy look. Dialogues [Abbas Tyrewala] are fantastic. In fact, the writer is in form yet again, after MUNNABHAI M.B.B.S. Stunts [Allan Amin] can easily match international quality and the usage of effects only enhances the outcome. Editing [Shirish Kunder] is perfect. Effects [Rajtaru] are outstanding.
Now to the performances!
MAIN HOON NA reinforces your confidence in SRK, the actor, the star. Portraying a mass-appealing character, the actor gives his best shot and delivers yet another power-packed performance. The role not only does full justice to his status as the country's super-star, but also as a performer. Besides, the two stunts in the film [his introduction and towards the finale] will silence his hardcore critics who felt that the actor was more comfortable handling the D.D.L.J., KUCH KUCH HOTA HAI and KAL HO NAA HO kind of roles.
Another performance that stands out is that of Zayed Khan. The actor, who seemed awkward in his debut film, is in full form in his second film. With this performance, Zayed takes a giant leap as a performer. Besides, his scenes with SRK depict his growth as an actor.
Sushmita Sen looks like a million bucks and her on-screen chemistry with SRK is fantastic. In fact, one wonders why the two hadn't been paired earlier! As for her performance, her role doesn't really demand histrionics, but she carries it off stylishly.
Amrita Rao is another revelation. After a miniscule role in MASTI, the actress comes into form in MAIN HOON NA. She gets ample scope to display a wide variety of emotions and she more than lives up to the occasion.
Suniel Shetty is fantastic as the terrorist. His get-up and performance both add to the sinister intentions of the character. Kiron Kher is fantastic yet again. This is another performance [after DEVDAS] that is sure to win her plaudits. Naseeruddin Shah is alright in a small, but significant role. Kabir Bedi is equally commendable.
Boman Irani's role is simply lovable, confirming the fact that he's an actor with an amazing range. Satish Shah is superb. He is sure to bring the house down with his brand of humour. Bindu is a pleasure to watch after a hiatus. Murli Sharma [Khan] is another actor who stands out in a brief role.
On the whole, MAIN HOON NA reinforces your faith in Bollywood commercial cinema. The film is a wholesome entertainer that has something for everyone. At the box-office, this keenly anticipated fare is sure to set new records in days to come, confirming the super-star status of SRK yet again and heralding the arrival of another talented director - Farah Khan.