There's no denying the fact that director duo Abbas-Mustan are amongst the best in the business!
With AGNEEKAAL, their very first Hindi film, they proved that they knew their job well. Their subsequent releases, KHILADI, BAAZIGAR and SOLDIER, emphasised the fact that they believed in deviating from the stereotype; focussing more on content than form. Their last release, CHORI CHORI CHUPKE CHUPKE, was path-breaking for the Indian audience in many ways since it tackled an intrepid theme ? surrogate motherhood.
But their latest offering, AJNABEE, belies the king-sized expectations!
Inspired by the Hollywood flick CONSENTING ADULTS, AJNABEE is a whodunit that tackles the novel issue of wife swapping. Bobby Deol and Kareena Kapoor tie the knot after two meetings and set out for Switzerland, where Bobby is supposed to participate in a polo match.
In Switzerland, the couple's immediate neighbours are Akshay Kumar and his svelte wife Bipasha Basu, who lead a luxurious lifestyle. The couples (Bobby-Kareena and Akshay-Bipasha) start spending a lot of time with each other and their friendship grows with each passing day.
Their friendship turns bitter when, on a holiday to Mauritius, Akshay suggests to Bobby, 'Why not swap wives for fun sake?'. An infuriated Bobby comes to blows with Akshay, compelling the couples to cut short their holiday and return to Switzerland.
Once home, Bobby forgives Akshay for the sinful idea, after the latter relentlessly apologises for it. A few days later, Akshay celebrates his birthday with Bobby and the two ladies. In an inebriated state, Akshay once again suggests the idea of swapping wives to Bobby.
Bobby walks into Akshay's house, but the next morning he learns that Bipasha has been murdered. All fingers point towards Bobby, who is arrested by the police.
But the actual murderer is on the loose. The mystery deepens!
The initial reels focus on fun and frolic, with as many as four songs coming in rapid succession. The emphasis is on providing light moments, perhaps to balance the intense goings-on that are to follow subsequently.
The narrative gets attention-grabbing when Akshay suggests wife swapping to Bobby. However, this particular issue ? wife swapping ? is alien for the Hindi cinegoer and so, it will come as a shock to him when Akshay raises the topic.
The interval point, which is actually the turning point of the film, catches the viewer unaware and he expects the post-interval portions to be much more engrossing. But the second half of this flick is akin to soda; it opens with fizz but mellows thereafter.
Clearly, the fault lies with the screenplay of the film!
One, revealing the true identity of the murderer in the first ten minutes of the second half was not the right thing to do. The suspense should've been maintained till the climax.
Two, just when the mystery deepens, the comedy track in the film comes as a stumbling block and dilutes the overall impact.
Three, the pre-climax, when Bobby accesses Akshay's bank accounts is treated childishly and cannot be absorbed. Even in the climax ? when Akshay reveals his game plan to Bobby ? looks hackneyed.
Even otherwise, barring a few scenes, the second half is deficient of endearing moments to keep the viewer mesmerised.
Directorially, Abbas-Mustan are not in form this time. The film maintains a rich, glossy look throughout, but the by-now-famous touches of the directors are restricted to a handful of sequences, which is all the more surprising in view of the fact that they have tackled this genre of film-making (suspense) with elan in KHILADI, BAAZIGAR and DARAAR.
They seem to have chosen a wrong story (wife swapping), which will not find patronage or identification from the orthodox cinegoers in India. Moreover, the screenplay is not as inspiring as their previous attempts. In fact, it leaves a lot to be desired.
Anu Malik's music elevates the proceedings to an extent. The film has three lilting numbers ? 'Mehbooba Mehbooba' (climax number), 'Meri Zindagi Mein' and 'Mohabbat Naam Hai Jiska' ? and the picturisation of these songs are eye-pleasing. Dialogues (Shyam Goel) are very well penned. Cinematography is first-rate.
Both Akshay Kumar and Bobby Deol deliver run-of-the-mill performances. They are decent, not magnificent. Kareena Kapoor goes through her part with ease, since the role doesn't demand histrionics. Considering this to be her first film, Bipasha Basu exudes confidence, oozes oomph and does a satisfactory job. Johny Lever is loud. Sharat Saxena is wasted. Dalip Tahil doesn't impress either.
On the whole, AJNABEE tackles an audacious theme that the Indian audience will find hard to absorb and identify with. The film, which boasts of impressive names on and off the screen, will attract the audiences for the first few days, but its fall is imminent after the initial euphoria settles. A heavy price tag will also prove a deterrent for its investors.