With the influx of multiplexes in India, a new layer of movie-going audience has come to the fore. As a result, themes that were considered taboo, unthinkable or untouchable till a few years ago are slowly finding their way into Indian movieplexes. Sure, times have changed...
Director Ashu Trikha's third outing ALAG also defies the stereotype. Yes, the male protagonist in ALAG is blessed with powers, but the film is not about Superman, Spiderman or Batman.
ALAG, the desi version of the Hollywood film POWDER [1995; Sean Patrick Flanery], tells the story of an unusual youth. He is bald, has no eyebrows, his body has no hair and he possesses the most advanced intellect. He also has a strange affinity for electricity. Radios and televisions don't work around him and, during thunderstorms, he acts like a lightning rod. Indeed, an alag concept for Indian moviegoers!
If the premise of ALAG is its USP, it has a flip side too. In India, the image of a superhero is that of a dashing man wearing a mask, out to save mankind from unscrupulous elements. In ALAG, the protagonist doesn't possess any of the powers that Indian mythology or any comic book superhero boasts of. It's more of scientific mumbo jumbo here. And it's for this reason that ALAG limits itself to a tiny section of movie-going audience.
Yet, all said and done, ALAG is watchable for two reasons. It's a well-told story with a motivating performance by its lead actor, Akshay Kapoor. And if you have an appetite for alag, hatke cinema, ALAG suits the purpose.
ALAG begins with the death of Rastogi [Yateen Karyekar], who has had a cardiac arrest on a rainy night. When the police begin their investigations and take over Rastogi's mansion, they find the entire setting eerie and mysterious. The mystery deepens when neighbors claim that there was someone else also living with Rastogi.
On further investigations, the police realize that Rastogi's son Tejas [Akshay Kapoor] has been hidden in the basement of the mansion. The boy has never stepped out of the house since childhood and has lived in darkness all his life. Nobody can fathom why he was confined to the underground room. Nobody knows why Rastogi hid his own son from the world.
The police decide to place Tejas in Purva's [Dia Mirza] care. Along with her father [Jayant Kripalani], Purva runs an institute for orphans who had stepped into a life of crime, but desire to change in life. Purva voluntarily agrees to help Tejas start his new life. But one look at him and she knows that she has not seen anyone like him before. He looks alag, behaves alag, is alag.
Meanwhile, Tejas is exploring the various facets of his newfound world...
To give the credit where it's due, the plot of ALAG sounds plausible. It is effective at getting the audience to care about the principal personality. Anyone who has ever felt like an outsider will see an element of himself/herself in the title character. It's easy to sympathize and identify with the loner.
However, while doing all that competently, ALAG consistently avoids taking chances. The protagonist always does the right thing. No matter how unjustly he's treated, he never lashes out. It's only towards the end that he uses his superpowers, while fighting the deceitful scientist [Tom Alter]. Even the romance between Akshay and Dia is half baked. A few more delicate moments would've only helped in making the emotional climax even more compelling.
Director Ashu Trikha laces the film with several noteworthy moments. The sequence in the dining hall [the lead man's first interaction with the bully and his cronies] is one such high point. His reaction to the shooting of a pigeon is another. Even the climax comes across as a novel experience. More than anything else, Ashu shows the courage to swim against the tide. But he should've gone all out as far as the writing is concerned. If you've the guts to opt for an offbeat theme, why opt for unwanted songs and an unwanted romantic track out of the blue? Why bow down to formulae suddenly? You cannot sail in two boats simultaneously, Mr. Director.
Aadesh Shrivastava's music is a mixed bag. 'Saanjh Ki Pighalti', the romantic track between Akshay and Dia, is soothing, while 'Sabse Alag' [filmed on a host of topnotch actors during the end credits], is another striking composition. But the tapori song ['Apun Ki Toli'] as also the hip-hop track ['Hai Junoon'] was just not required. It's completely uncharacteristic for the recluse hero to suddenly break into songs and dances, frankly. Cinematography [Fuwad Khan] is up to the mark. The visual effects are first-rate.
ALAG rests on Akshay Kapoor's firm shoulders and the actor handles the complex role with confidence. He succeeds in making you feel for the character and that's one big achievement. Besides, he imparts that certain freshness to the role since he comes in without the baggage of an image. Overall, a commendable job!
Dia Mirza is highly effective. Although the story revolves around Akshay, Dia manages to make her presence felt nonetheless. Yateen Karyekar is alright. Mukesh Rishi has a miniscule role. Jayant Kripalani, as Dia's father, is up to the mark. Tom Alter is stereotypical. Beena is fair.
On the whole, ALAG is indeed an alag experience, but more of an experiment that caters to a tiny section of moviegoers. At the box-office, its appeal would be restricted to some select multiplexes of Mumbai and Delhi only [that too during the evening shows], while the business at the traditional Indian markets will be poor.