The parent-child relationship has fascinated a number of film-makers over the years. From AA GALE LAG JAA to KUNWARA BAAP to MASOOM to AKELE HUM AKELE TUM to RISHTEY, Hindi cinema has, at regular intervals, produced a number of films that look at this special bond.
Harry Baweja's MAIN AISA HI HOON borrows heavily from the talked-about Hollywood film I AM SAM [director: Jessie Nelson; Sean Penn, Michelle Pfeiffer], but the Indianized version just doesn't strike a chord.
The plot is indeed refreshing, but the film loses the grip in the latter part. There are glaring loopholes in the screenplay and the courtroom sequences, which should've been electrifying, leave you cold.
Yes, MAIN AISA HI HOON has its pros, but the cons outweigh them completely.
Indraneel/Neel [Ajay Devgan] is a grown-up man with the brain of a seven-year-old child. Life for him is a fable and the world a fairy-tale setting where no wrong or no evil can ever penetrate. The nucleus of his world is his seven-year-old daughter, Gungun [Baby Rucha]. Friends [Dinesh Lamba], the owner of the books and coffee shop he works in [Anjan Srivastava] and his landlady [Lillete Dubey] form the rest of his world.
Gungun's mother, Maya [Esha Deol], had entered Neel's life like a mysterious breeze and left just as inexplicably, after giving birth to the child. And for seven years after that, Neel and Gungun just had each other to live for. Their world was happy, albeit not picture-perfect.
In this idyllic world, on the eve of Gungun's seventh birthday, enters a storm in the form of Maya's father, Mr. Trivedi. The man, who has just learnt about the presence of Gungun, had flown from London to claim his grand-daughter. Trivedi slaps a lawsuit on Neel for the custody of the child.
Neel can feel his world crumbling and his decision to search for the best lawyer in town lands him at the office of Neeti [Sushmita Sen]. Recently divorced, embittered, terribly ambitious, with a son whom she neglects, Neeti is a far cry from the role model for Neel's case.
Terribly hesitant to take up Neel's case initially, she finally takes it up thanks to Neel's unflinching love for his little daughter. Fighting a powerful NRI with all the clout and money isn't the only stumble in Neeti's path. Trivedi has the advantage of being in the right -- Neel is a mentally handicapped person.
A courtroom battle ensuesï¿½
The problem with MAIN AISA HI HOON lies not in Harry's execution, but in its screenplay [Bhawani Iyer] and dialogues [Anurag Kashyap]. The material to make the film is indeed interesting and with the director handling certain moments with aplomb, the writers should've ensured that the writing is foolproof.
Sadly, there are glitches in the screenplay that you just cannot overlook. Some instances:
- After giving birth to a baby girl, Esha suddenly disappears from the scene. Yes, she's shown to be one confused lady, but her sudden disappearance looks too abrupt in the film. And from the Indian audiences' point of view, for a mother to discard her new-born [Esha doesn't even look at her baby!] would only evoke negative reactions.
Strangely, Esha continues to maintain that she's only found happiness with Neel, so why does she move on without even saying a good bye to him?
- When Anupam Kher learns that he has a grand-daughter, he decides to fly to Shimla and seek her custody. But how does he know that Ajay has a mind of a seven-year-old? And why does he detest Ajay? In her letter to her father, Esha had categorically mentioned that her most memorable moments in life had been with Ajay. And when did Esha ever complain that Neel had taken advantage of her?
- In the courtroom, when the battle for the custody progresses, not once does the court ask the child about her feelings for her father. This, when the child, time and again, makes it too obvious that she loves her father dearly!
Even the courtroom sequences look tame and tepid and the fire is clearly missing. For any courtroom battle to leave an indelible impression on the mind of a moviegoer, it ought to be embellished with razor-sharp dialogues. Films like INSAAF KA TARAZU and DAMINI are two shining examples and the courtroom sequences in these films left you completely speechless.
But Anurag Kashyap, responsible for the dialogues of MAIN AISA HI HOON, fails miserably. The writer comes up with such ghisa-pita lines that you often wonder whether Kashyap even realizes that the triumph of the story is in its effective courtroom drama, which doesn't excite in this case.
MAIN AISA HI HOON works, in a minimal way, for two factors: Harry Baweja's execution and Ajay Devgan's performance. Harry has tackled different genres in the past and the film-maker ventures into a different alley this time around. Directorially, he shows his competence in several sequences and there's no denying that as far as execution is concerned, this is amongst Harry's finest works. But, like mentioned above, his writers let him down terribly.
While the first half grips you gradually [although it's slow-paced], the post-interval portions have been stretched unnecessarily, with boredom seeping in after a point. The film can also do with some judicious trimming of at least 20 minutes.
Ideally, a film like MAIN AISA HI HOON should've been a songless flick, but too many songs in the narrative only mar the impact. Although the film does boast of a couple of hummable tunes [Himesh Reshammiya], you only wish that there were valid situations to fit in those numbers. Making the protagonist sing time and again takes away the seriousness from the film.
Cinematography [Ayananka Bose] is striking, but what is jarring is the hand-held camera movements. In simple terms, why does the camera shake in every sequence? Even in courtroom sequences? Sorry, it's a complete downer!
MAIN AISA HI HOON is embellished with high-quality performances and topping the list is evidently Ajay Devgan. One of the brightest actors of his generation, Ajay is remarkable all through the enterprise. Handling a complex role with complete understanding, MAIN AISA HI HOON ranks amongst his finest works, at par with some of his accomplished performances -- THE LEGEND OF BHAGAT SINGH, ZAKHM, LAJJA, DEEWANGEE and HUM DIL DE CHUKE SANAM.
The 'discovery' is undoubtedly the child actor who walks straight into your heart -- Baby Rucha. Bagging a complex role is indeed difficult, but doing full justice to it and delivering a fabulous performance is much more difficult. Despite sharing the screen space with veterans of 20/30/60 movies, the girl stands on her feet and mesmerizes you with a performance that truly deserves laurels.
Sushmita Sen is another topper. Cast in a role that's in sharp contrast to her glamorous image, the actress displays terrific understanding while enacting this part. Esha Deol, despite her ill-conceived role, is a treat. The actor is getting better with every release.
Anupam Kher is, as always, efficient. Vikram Gokhale, Lillete Dubey, Anjan Srivastava and Dinesh Lamba are adequate. Master Raj Gokani is cute.
On the whole, MAIN AISA HI HOON could've been an engaging saga, but it runs out of steam in the post-interval portions. At the box-office, the film might appeal to a very tiny segment of viewers, but for the majority, it would only be a disappointment.