Sunday, December 09, 2007

Khoya Khoya Chand: A voyeur's take on the lost world

Take a sneak peak of what went in behind the scenes of the Hindi cinema of the fifties and the sixties, from a voyeuristic, insider point-of-view.

Right from the moment Vinay Pathak as Shyamal, an assistant director, takes the spotlight to tell us how a struggling writer Zafar (Shiney Ahuja) first met the central lady of the piece, the emerging starlet Nikhat (Soha Ali Khan), we know this is going to be an insider’s account of the love story.

Though the narrator disappears, the quirky, restless hand-held camerawork suggests that this thirty-party account is possibly as much we would know about the truth. After all, we are not being told the story from Nikhat’s or Zafar’s point of view.

This is the film’s biggest plus and biggest minus point. Plus, because, it does gives us a more or less objective account of how flawed, human and vulnerable they were.

The lack of specifics makes this story applicable to the closely-knit film industry of the period that used to comprise of starry-eyed Nikhats, who, seduced by promises of stardom by the Prem Kumars, were unable to balance their passion and idealism, represented by emotionally turbulent writers like Zafars and the populist demands of the Khosas (producers), only to end up becoming the suicidal Ratan Balas of the tale.

In many ways, Nikhat’s story is more or less the same as her senior, Ratan Balas. In many ways, the Zafars, the Prem Kumars, the Khosas and the Shyamals of the era would have used the Nikhats and the Ratan Balas to further their interests and yet have come together at some point, to make a film that immortalised all of them forever.

This bird’s eye view of the era also is the film’s minus because, the filmmaker stops just short of giving us a peek into their individual minds, fears and dreams. Exactly, what would have made us feel the pangs of filmdom and the angst of incompleteness each of these characters faced.

Something, which a flawed ‘Factory Girl’ did brilliantly by sucking you into all that Edie Sedgwick (Sienna Miller) went through. Edie and Nikhat are not too different. But Factory Girl was hard-hitting, intimate, voyeuristic and gut-wrenchingly depressing.

Khoya Khoya Chand fails to do that in spite of the potential presented and the role sexual politics played during the tumultuous times the film industry went through.

Soha Ali Khan, though an exciting promising actress who turns in her best role of her career, in spite of the time the movie spans, continues to look like a girl, hardly the battered woman Nikhat would have been in her self-destructive last phase of life. Sonya Jehan (who plays Ratan Bala), on the other hand, is pure magic.

Shiney Ahuja’s intensity sees him through as Zafar and it is impossible to believe that he’s the same guy who began his career as a wooden porn-star (Sins) and the ever-reliable Rajat Kapoor manages it with a wig, like a natural.

The writing in the film is top class, a true homage to the era, just like Shantanu Moitra’s haunting music that transports you almost instantly to the era of mujhras, pianos and cabarets.
Vintage cinema like this needs your patience for it is no easy task to set the mood, make a completely constructed era breathe life, and have characters spouting lines of great literary value in staged settings, with archaic music and yet, never look like a spoof.

Sudhir Mishraji, your passion for cinema shows.


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