Set against the backdrop of Goa, Venus Records & Tapes Ltd.'s JOSH is a story about energy, youth, love and the zest for life. Max (Shah Rukh Khan), a cool Goan dada, is the leader of Eagle gang, which is constantly up in arms with the new inhabitants of Vasco town, Prakash (Sharad Kapoor), and his pack of the Bichhu gang. The two gangs revel in this enmity and love to showoff their strength to each other.
This enmity is further complicated when Prakash's city-bred brother, Rahul (Chandrachur Singh), falls in love with Max's twin-sister, Shirley (Aishwarya Rai). Rahul, a sensible young boy, does not agree with the mindless violence the two gangs resort to. In the end, the film confirms that mindless violence leads to destruction.
Inspired by WEST SIDE STORY, the film holds your attention from the very first sequence. The enmity between the two gangs is established at the very outset and the execution of these scenes proves director Mansoor Khan's command over the medium. The first half is exciting; it is laced with tense, humorous and sensitive moments, all handled with finesse that most gang-war films lack.
The interval point is among the highlights of the film. The fight-to-finish battle for supremacy and Ash getting unconscious when Shah Rukh tries to throttle Chandrachur is remarkably shot. This point raises the expectations for an equally engrossing second half. But the film loses ground in the post-interval portions.
The fault lies with the script of the film -- the basic premise of the story (the truth behind Shah Rukh and Ash's father) is weak. The flashback portions, coupled with Nadira's characterisation, should've been better explained. Even the climax leaves a lot to be desired. The courtroom sequence, when the verdict is pronounced, and prior to it the accident of Sharad Kapoor's actual murderer, seems like a shortcut to end the story fast.
Another drawback is the Goan atmosphere projected in the film. There is no denying that it gives the film a rich look in terms of colors used and language spoken, but the atmosphere will not be accepted in Rajasthan, Punjab and Bihar.
Yet, it cannot be denied that Mansoor Khan deserves full marks for deviating from the run-of-the-mill trend by casting two top stars as siblings. Giving equal footage to Shah Rukh and Sharad, thus refusing to bow to market dictates requires courage. Otherwise too, his execution of sequences is remarkable. Notice the tense moments between Shah Rukh and Sharad Kapoor or the light scenes involving Chandrachur and Ash or the fight towards the pre-climax when Shah Rukh shoots Sharad, you have to accept the fact that the director knows his job well.
Anu Malik's music compliments the goings-on beautifully. The film has a lilting score and every song is equally well picturised. 'Sailaru Sailare', 'Apun Bola' (rendered efficiently by Shah Rukh) and 'Hai Mera Dil' are gems that will add to the repeat viewing of the film. Action scenes (Abbas Ali) are vibrant. The fights look realistic and have been canned without resorting to crudeness. Dialogues are natural. Cinematography (K.V. Anand) is fabulous.
Shah Rukh Khan excels as Max. He looks the character and performs it with utmost sincerity. This is undoubtedly one of the best performances of his career. Aishwarya Rai looks stunning (as always!) and delivers a great performance too. It must be noted that Shah Rukh and Ash don't look odd enacting the role of twins.
Sharad Kapoor springs a pleasant surprise. He is totally under control and plays his part to perfection, matching Shah Rukh at every step. This film should prove the turning point in his career. Chandrachur Singh is first-rate too. He looks the character, which was so important, and his performance is sure to be appreciated. Priya Gill has too a small role to leave an impact. Nadira suffers due to a weak characterisation. Sharat Saxena and Viveck Vaswani lend adequate support.
On the whole, JOSH is a well made film with great performances and a hit musical score. But the Goan ambience will restrict its prospects in some states due to lack of identification. Also, an average second half and a weak climax are major limitations. Yet, with the kind of opening the film has generated, it should see its distributors reach the safety mark. However, the business in Mumbai and South India will be the best.