Gaurang Doshi's AANKHEN, directed by Vipul Shah, tackles a theme that hasn't been attempted on the Indian screen before ï¿½ bank robbery by three blind men.
Amitabh Bachchan, a no-nonsense bank manager, is sacked from the bank he had nurtured for so many years. Reason: He spots the cashier cheating an aged lady of Rs. 100 and beats him black and blue.
Furious with the management for sacking him, Bachchan decides to take them to task. He decides to hit them where it hurts the most ï¿½ robbing it off its cash reservoirs.
He hires Sushmita Sen and handpicks three blind men (Akshay Kumar, Arjun Rampal, Paresh Rawal) to accomplish his mission. After gruelling training sessions, the three succeed in robbing the bank, but things go haywire. What happens next?
Inspired by the Gujarati play ANDHALO PAATO, AANKHEN defies the norms and rules of commercial Hindi cinema. To state that the film is an experiment of sorts would be apt.
For, the protagonist here is a man with evil intentions. Furthermore, the screenplay moves on a single track from start to end ï¿½ bank robbery ï¿½ making the viewer thirst for relief in the form of romance and songs.
Treated like an English film, AANKHEN starts off rather impressively. The initial reels are captivating and the film manages to hold your interest till Amitabh embarks on the dangerous mission.
The pace drops subsequently as the training sessions begin. The fault lies with the fact that too much importance has been given to the training, with Amitabh being just a silent spectator and Sushmita doing all the talking. The story actually comes to a standstill at this point.
In the first half, the motive behind choosing three blind men to perform the bank robbery doesn't come across strongly. Moreover, the no-questions-asked attitude adopted by Akshay and Paresh, when told about the motive behind the training [bank robbery], is hard to digest. Also, the money-minded blind men don't even ask for a token amount to undertake the dangerous task.
Why does Amitabh keep his identity concealed from the blind men, right till the pre-climax, also remains a mystery.
Even Sushmita succumbing to pressure tactics by Amitabh [when he has kidnapped her brother] makes one feel as if there's no law and order in the country. The viewer would've overlooked these flaws had the writer (Aatish Kapadia) made an effort to come up with a taut screenplay, instead of resorting to cinematic liberties and leaving a lot of questions unanswered.
However, the pace does gather momentum in the second half when the three rob the bank. The sequences thereafter are interesting, although one strongly feels that the bank robbery episode could've been concise and stylishly executed. In fact, Delnaz (lady cashier) and her admirer's scenes irritate grossly throughout the second half.
The pre-climax catches you unaware. Amitabh forcing Paresh to reveal where he has hidden the booty and the sequence between Amitabh and Sushmita subsequently, are engrossing. Even the clash between Amitabh - Akshay and Arjun is captivating, but the culmination to the story could've been better thought of.
Debutante director Vipul Shah impresses you with his shot execution. He also deserves kudos for handling a couple of dramatic sequences with aplomb. Besides, he has extracted first-rate performances from the principal cast.
But he has yet to learn a lot more as far as the screenplay is concerned. His choice of the subject is praiseworthy, but the sequence of events and the way the drama unfolds on screen isn't persuasive enough.
There's no scope for romance or music in the enterprise. The Akshay-Bipasha track is limited to one song, while the romance between Arjun and Sushmita is expressed in words. And surprisingly, Paresh conveys it most of the times, but Arjun or Sushmita don't. The viewer will also feel dejected since the much-publicised song on the duo ï¿½ 'Kuch Kasme Hain Jawan' ï¿½ isn't there in the film.
Also, the emotional moments are superficial and don't strike a chord. Sushmita's feelings for her brother (held captive by Amitabh) are all forgotten once she starts training the three and even towards the pre-climax, when she takes a decision to eliminate herself.
The three songs that are there (Aadesh Shrivastava, Jatin-Lalit, Nitin Raikwar) are a major asset, with the songs being well tuned and equally well picturised. 'Gustakhiyaan' is undoubtedly the best of the lot, while 'Phatela Jeb' and 'Chalka Chalka' will appeal to the hoi polloi. The background music (Aadesh Shrivastava) is excellent. The choreography of the title track deserves special mention.
Ashok Mehta's cinematography is at par with any top international flick. The special effects in the narrative are skilfully executed. The producer has left no stone unturned to give his best to the product as far as the production values and promotion are concerned.
Amitabh Bachchan delivers a dynamic performance. Undoubtedly, one of the finest performances of his career, the actor makes the implausible look plausible ï¿½ that effective is he. He is incredible in the initial reels and also during the bank robbery.
Akshay Kumar is as confident as ever. His scenes with Amitabh, when he feels his presence throughout the training sessions, are electrifying. Arjun Rampal does not impress. He tries hard but doesn't succeed, partly due to a not-too-strong characterisation.
Sushmita Sen is first-rate. Her scenes with Amitabh are well executed. Paresh Rawal has a role that will be appreciated by the masses. However, he tends to go over the top in a few scenes. Aditya Panscholi gets no scope.
On the whole, AANKHEN has a super cast, a novel theme, popular music and a grandiose look as its strong points, but the novel theme will not find many takers beyond metropolitan cities. Also, the business will taper with the onslaught of big releases in the coming weeks. However, the excellent opening will help.