In his directorial debut MY BROTHER NIKHIL, Onir picked up a theme that was inventive. The film looked at the HIV/AIDS issue in Goa in the '80s, when not much was known about the pandemic/virulent disease. Also, it was perhaps the first Indian film that threw light on a gay relationship without making a mockery of one's sexual preferences.
In his second outing, Onir takes a look at relationships and how the lives of five people get entwined in a moment of madness. Worthy follow up by the director? Not really!
Sure, Onir has climbed the ladder as far as handling complex relationships are concerned. The story is handled with utmost sensitivity, the performances by the principal characters are proficient, the film has its share of engaging moments So where does it falter? The screenplay, of course!
Besides a flawed script, BAS EK PAL unwinds at a lethargic pace. The story takes it own sweet time to reach the finale, thereby making the moviegoer impatient at regular intervals. And that only dilutes the impact of a film that could've been a rich emotional experience.
To sum up, Onir doesn't get it right this time!
BAS EK PAL is the story of five people bound inextricably by an incident that changes their lives forever. Set in the metropolis of Mumbai, the film explores the complexities of modern urban relationships. Each character has a secret. And each uncovered secret alters the dynamics of every relationship.
During one night of partying, Anamika [Urmila Matondkar] meets Nikhil [Sanjay Suri] at Anticlock Pub The chemistry between them is instant and obvious from the moment they meet. However, she disappears into the night without even telling him her name.
Nikhil starts visiting the pub regularly, hoping to meet her again. Many nights of waiting later, on a night when Nikhil has gone to Anticlock with Rahul [Jimmy Shergill] and Steve [Rehaan Engineer], Anamika appears with her friends. An altercation takes place, leading to a scuffle And in the scuffle a shot is fired.
Time stands still as Nikhil realizes that he is holding a gun in his hand, the gun from which the shot has just been fired This moment would change all their lives.
BAS EK PAL unfolds in the most interesting manner. The sequence at the pub -- when Suri and Urmila meet for the first time -- sets the ball rolling. The bonding between the friends [Suri-Jimmy] is also well handled. The narrative keeps your attention arrested right till the shot is fired. But things begin to deteriorate thereafter.
Suri's portions in the prison and his 'rape' by another convict leave a bad taste. Agreed, incidents such as these could be real, but it looks completely forced in the story. Does it have shock-value? Not anymore, since the moviegoers did witness something like this in CHANDNI BAR years ago.
Later, when Suri is out on bail, he starts stalking Urmila and you actually start wondering, is Onir revisiting DARR [SRK hounds Juhi everywhere she goes]? Suri even reaches Urmila's bedroom and wants to make love Maza nahin aaya, Mr. Director!
Then Juhi's past unfolds and her illicit relationship with Jimmy outside her marriage comes to the fore. They love each other, yet Juhi walks away from Jimmy and goes back to her husband [Rehaan Engineer], who continues to physically abuse her. In fact, Juhi, a woman of today, keeps talking of her failed marriage and has constant showdowns with Rehaan, so why doesn't she take him to task when he abuses her? Why doesn't she walk out on him to start with?
The climax is another sore point. At this point, you're confused: Does Urmila love Suri or Jimmy? If she doesn't love Suri, why does she visit him in the middle of the night? And why does Juhi develop a soft spot for Suri? Agreed, she cites the reasons, but to play the good Samaritan looks so very bizarre.
Onir is handicapped by a faulty script. The storyteller has treated certain portions well, but the screenplay [Irene Dhar Malik and Onir] has several holes that are difficult to overlook. Add to it, the snail pacing and things only weaken. There's not much scope for music in the film, but the song in the pub ['Hai Ishq Ye Kya Ik Khata'] is well tuned. Ditto for 'Tere Bin', a melancholic track with a haunting tune. Cinematography [Sachin K. Krishn] is inconsistent. Why is the lighting so dark at times?
Sanjay Suri excels in a role that suits him well. He manages to convey the pathos and anguish beautifully. Urmila is perfect, although this one's not in league with her work in BHOOT, PINJAR or EK HASINA THI. Jimmy Shergill is first-rate, playing a difficult role with precision. Juhi is admirable too, although, as pointed out above, the flawed screenplay takes away the sheen from her role. Rehaan Engineer is okay.
On the whole, BAS EK PAL is an uninteresting fare. At the box-office, the film has precious little to offer to the multiplex audience, but nothing for the masses. Businesswise, it will face an uphill task.