Surround Sound Tonic

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Arul ManiBy Arul Mani

NEW YORK — the present. Omar (Neil Nitin Mukesh) is detained by the FBI because they found guns and explosives in a taxi he runs. Interrogation brings on a flashback and we learn that he befriended Maya (Katrina Kaif) and Samir (John Abraham) while at New York State University and that this idyll of Arcadian frolicking ended when he found, to his disappointment, that Maya and Samir were in love. 9/11 occurs and allows him to drop out of their lives. FBI investigator Roshan (Irrfan Khan) tells Omar that Samir and Maya are now married, and that he can have his freedom back if he helps them nail Samir, whom they suspect is the leader of a terrorist cell. Omar reluctantly re-enters Samir’s life, and experiences several unconvincing conflicts as other facts emerge. The obligatory hail of bullets comes soon enough, and that is such a mercy.

New York

This is a film so up-to-date with the demotic that it cracks a ‘come’ joke in the first halfhour. It also bristles with messages. Just in case you miss them, five whole paragraphs roll up in neat summary before the credits. They are, in that order: Bush was a bad man, the FBI is full of madmen, interrogation turns welladjusted people into terrorists, and America is not such a bad country because they now have Barack Obama. Director Kabir Khan must quickly find a good-sized bushel under which to hide his little light. The moment that stands out in my memory was perhaps unintended: Kaif is sprinting or something, and she looms up from the bottom of the screen all ashimmer with secret purpose, like Spielberg’s mechanised shark.

I had what you might call a surround sound experience. Somebody kept letting off a rather musical yawn while another produced a rich volcanic burp at crucial moments. I heard strange sucking noises when Mere Sang began to play, and I looked around to find some so-far sedate and middle-aged couple smooching furiously — Kaif obviously is some kind of tonic, and we never knew. The gay blades who came along sat slumped in their seats till John Abraham appeared — whereupon they perked up and announced, amid cackles, that he and Mukesh ‘had chemistry’. When the movie ended, they were the only people cheering. Because the pasta-hating Irrfan Khan and Mukesh were now ‘together’, because there were so many buttshots, and because somebody had finally thought of their needs while making a film. Nothing like a different perspective sometimes.

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