Hindi cinema is truly evolving. Directors and writers are opting for themes that were unimaginable till a few years ago.
Debutante director Anupam Sinha's SHUKRIYA also treads the untrodden path?
The Indian cinegoers have been on a diet of stereotypical fares since the last few decades. Therefore, a theme that isn't formulaic could meet with diverse reactions. And this goes for SHUKRIYA.
If the story of this film is its USP, it's also a deterrent. While some would love the novel theme, there might be a sizable section of moviegoers who may not absorb the unconventional storyline.
SHUKRIYA tells the story of a tycoon Jindal [Anupam Kher], on the verge of celebrating his 60th birthday.
The film begins with Jindal hearing strange voices. At first he thinks he's hallucinating. But it dawns upon him that he's receiving messages from the God of Death, who seems to forewarn him that his days are numbered and hence, he has very little time on his hands.
Jindal has several incomplete tasks to accomplish. Among them is the inauguration of a hospital in memory of his deceased mother.
When the hour arrives, Jindal talks to the God of Death about the predicament of being human. The God of Death decides to take human form and experience the wonders of being human. Jindal's death is deferred by four days, while the God of Death has four days to live.
Jindal's daughter Sanam [Shriya Saran] meets an aspiring singer Ricky [Aftab Shivdasani] and sparks fly. They part. He is killed. Next morning, she is startled to find Ricky in their mansion. The God of Death now occupies the body of Ricky?
Inspired by Martin Brest's 1998 flick MEET JOE BLACK [Anthony Hopkins, Brad Pitt], which in turn was loosely based on the 1934 movie DEATH TAKES A HOLIDAY, SHUKRIYA has an unconventional storyline. Although Hindu mythology talks of God of Death, the Indianized adaptation of MEET JOE BLACK wouldn't meet with wholehearted approval.
Handling an offbeat theme could prove one daunting task, but debutante director Anupam Sinha deserves extra browny points for handling the subject with sensitivity and dexterity. While handling a plot like this, there's a remote possibility of serious turning into comical, but the spirit of the story remains intact till the last sequence. Sinha's handling of the emotional moments is sure to meet with all-round praise.
But the film loses its sheen partly in its post-interval portions. And it gets too slow-paced by the time it reaches the finale. However, even the finale is unconventional and the re-appearance of Ricky [Aftab comes alive] seems too much of a cinematic liberty.
Sinha has chosen breath-taking locales as the backdrop and that gives the film a visually striking look. Although a number of films have been shot in England and Switzerland, the locales are absolute eye-candy in SHUKRIYA. The cinematographer [Rajeev Shrivastava] has done complete justice, must say.
SHUKRIYA is embellished with a strong musical score [Vishal-Shekhar, Yogendra-Devendra, Himesh Reshammiya]. 'Maine Dil Mein Chhupaya Tumhe Dhadkan Banake', 'Ni Soniye' and 'Maine Poochha Kudrat Se' are excellent numbers and their picturization is perfect. Choreography [Baba Yadav] is first-rate.
SHUKRIYA boasts of wonderful performances by the principal cast. Aftab Shivdasani handles a difficult role with remarkable ease and delivers a knockout performance. It underlines the fact that the young actor can deliver in serious roles as well.
Shriya Saran is an actress to watch. She not only looks pretty and photogenic, but also enacts her part with amazing confidence. Her expressions in the emotional sequences deserve special mention.
Anupam Kher is in form after a long, long time. He takes to his part like a seasoned player. Rati Agnihotri is first-rate. Newcomer Indraneel needs to loosen up a bit. Rana Jung Bahadur provides some entertaining moments.
On the whole, SHUKRIYA will meet with mixed reactions from moviegoers - some might like it, others may not absorb its theme. At the box-office, SHUKRIYA will have to rely heavily on word of mouth, provided the story is accepted. It's not the type that would set the box-office ablaze, nonetheless the strong emotional quotient should appeal to the families and those looking for unadulterated entertainment.