Movie review 'Fitoor': Falls short of all expectations

DECCAN CHRONICLE. | SUPARNA SHARMA
Published Feb 13, 2016, 12:19 am IST
Updated Feb 13, 2016, 12:36 am IST
The film’s script and screenplay are thin on conceiving the characters and conveying their motives.
A still from the movie Fitoor
 A still from the movie Fitoor
Rating:

Cast: Aditya Roy Kapur, Katrina Kaif, Tabu, Rahul Bhat, Aditi Rao Hydari, Akshay Oberoi, Ajay Devgn, Lara Dutta, Talat Aziz, Mohammed Abrar, Tunisha Sharma
Director: Abhishek Kapoor

Writer-director Abhishek Kapoor has made four films. The first (Aryan: Unbreakable starring Sohail Khan’s jiggly man b***s), I hope, even he’d like to forget; Rock On! which really is, despite the inexplicable hysteria in and around it, a middling film about middle-aged men worrying about their, well, h*** on; the third (Kai Po Che), a fabulous film with some extraordinary acting, direction and daring politics; and now his fourth, Fitoor, a grand and beauteous dud.

 

The fact that Fitoor — which is more like the wreckage of the epic novel Great Expectations by Charles Dickens than an interpretation of it — comes on Valentine’s weekend makes it even more annoying and depressing. Young, cute, lovey-dovey couples, many on their first ever Valentine’s Day date, clasping sweaty hands and walking in as twins conjoined at the shoulder, will be left listless and low after spending over two hours with it. Most will try to find solace in the fact that though the film’s love story is rather soulless, the film is very beautiful.

 

The credit for that goes to the film’s best acting talent — Kashmir. This two-colour palette jannat — white and orange — hasn’t looked more heartbreakingly exquisite. Fitoor’s Kashmir, with its disturbing and delicate tranquility, is surreal.  

Abhishek Kapoor probably wanted to retell Great Expectations as a love story in a dreamy and haunting setting. He gets the location right, but little else. His great Fitoor falls short of even very small expectations.

The great expectations alluded to in the title of the novel was money, a windfall. The title of Kapoor’s film is fitoor — passion, obsession. Pyaar ka. So, some changes were inevitable.

 

For starters, Fitoor draws its story not from the sweeping epic, but a rather bare-bones, tacky synopsis of it. Plot and characters are not so much abridged as reduced and weakened. Apart from the fact that several themes — moral, social and psychological — and supporting characters have been knocked out, the complex main characters have been shrunk to stock fairytale archetypes.

Like the novel, the film’s story is narrated by its protagonist, Noor Nizami (Aditya Roy Kapur), beginning with what happened 15 years ago, in Kashmir.
An escaped jihadi ambushed little Noor (Mohammed Abrar) rather violently, demanding food and a safe home. A scary apparition, he returns later to add nothing to the character of Noor or the story.

 

Noor has a brother and sister, whose role is confined to informing us that he’s an artist with potential and to escort him to Anjuman, Begum Hazrat’s majestic house.

Noor falls in love with young Firdaus (Tunisha Sharma) the moment he sets eyes on her and then on his task is to hanker for her. The object of his desire is imprisoned by her class and circumstances to say or feel anything, and the evil witch, Begum Hazrat (Tabu), is devoted to inflicting hurt and keeping the two lovers apart. Firdaus is soon sent off, while Noor grows up and gets, through a mysterious benefactor, an art residency in Delhi.

 

This trip is made so that Aditya Roy Kapur can take off his shirt and impress us. But we are more impressed with how eccentric the film suddenly gets.
Arty-farty, high-class Delhi, complete with languid, partied-out queer men and women with the essential appendages of listless expats is very interesting.
What we are not impressed with is the art gallery gal, Leena (Lara Dutta). But thanks to her, Noor begins to make waves and he spots Firdaus. She is to marry a Pakistani minister saab’s son, Bilal (Rahul Bhat).

Bhat is excellent and has the film’s second best dialogue. The film’s first ticklish dialogue is delivered by a white boy who is, as Snoop Dogg’s euphemism goes, flying the friendly skies. This triangle — Noor-Firdaus-Bilal — leads to just one interesting scene and much hankering on our part to be told the story properly. It’s not. We are expected to add our own two bits to try and make sense of the characters, their actions and motivations. Soon there’s a trip to London before returning to Kashmir.

 

There is some attempt in the film at political comment, perhaps to justify the setting. But after the last Bollywood outing in Kashmir (Haider), this one is really limp. A scene is shot through soldiers on the streets of Kashmir, a bomb goes off, a strange comment is made — “we are all free”, and Noor the artist melds grenades and twists some barbed wire as part of his art installation. Less pacifist, more pointless.

Mystical Kashmir, Anay Goswamy’s soaring, sweeping camerawork and the heft of Dickens’ great novel give Abhishek Kapoor’s Fitoor pretensions of being grand and epic. But Fitoor is like an imposing seductive canvas — stunning and scenic with all-white frosting, snowflake showers, ablaze with chinaar ka lal — that is peopled with half-baked, wispy characters.

 

The film’s script and screenplay are thin on conceiving the characters and conveying their motives. As a result what we get are meagre leftovers of the original characters acting out their defining emotion episodically.

Scenes — like the one where the young Firdaus looks at little Noor’s shoes and makes him aware of his coarse, ugly poverty, or when Begum Hazrat draws manic, devilish circles around little Noor, corralling him in her game of love — grab our attention, but do little to create full-bodied characters or tell us their story.  

 

Though the film’s art director and costume designers give it a fairytale look and mood — lush and mysterious — the characters dwell in these settings as inane entities. There’s so much spectacle, not enough drama. Worse, the film’s lead pair can’t really act.

Aditya Roy Kapur does the stunned-with-anguish, eyes-glazing-with-heartache looks very well. But when he has to proceed into action, as actors usually have to in motion pictures, he is like a crazed bull going all over the place. I find him compelling in small, impassioned supporting roles. As a male lead he loses my attention and interest all too soon.

 

Katrina Kaif is pretty, no doubt. When a hank of her red hair — which, according to gossip, may have cost Rs 55 lakh to colour — floats on her pretty, airbrushed and botoxed visage, we know that she can be the object of the passion and obsession of the film’s title. But Miss Kaif is just so incredibly inadequate and inept an actress that she makes me, inadvertently, slap my own forehead in frustration. And here, on top of all that incompetence, she’s looking plastic.

Kaif’s dresses, courtesy Anaita Shroff Adajania, are the sort that fill the centre-spreads of fashion magazines. We get the whole gamut — work look, evening party look, ultra glamorous look for the red carpet. If only her acting skills were worth even 1/100th of the amount spent on these ensembles.

 

Tabu, as usual, tries to act. She tries to give Begum Hazrat’s character the story book depth, menace and mystery it deserves. But because there is little help from the script, it feels like she’s amplifying a wispy character with her histrionics. And later, when she is “explained”, when we get to know why she is so heartless and forever playing puppeteer, it’s too late. We do, however, enjoy Aditi Rao Hydari’s teary wailing. Tabu and Aditi together have more spunk than the entire cast and Abhishek Kapoor’s sulking love story put together.

 

 

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