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|Directed by||Vikram Bhatt|
Modern day secular India is held at ransom by international extortionist, Baba Sikiander and his brothers, Aftab and Sameer. They begin by demanding money from wealthy businessmen, and when their victims refuse to pay, they are killed. One of their victim's now being threatened is Kantilal Shah, who has adopted a mere canteen boy, Bunty, gave him his family name, Karan Shah, and the responsibility of running the family business, much to the chagrin of his daughter, Anjali. Upon hearing that his father's life is endangered, Karan returns from America and convinces his dad not to give to the extortionist's demands, but instead provide that amount to the past victims' and their respective families, to which his father agrees. Then five days later, a day after his birthday, Kantilal is gunned down in the elevator along with four of his bodyguards. Anjali openly renounces Karan and asks him not to participate in her dad's funeral. A shocked and devastated Karan announces that he will apprehend and bring Baba Sikander to justice in India. However, when he finds out that the country that Baba is holed up in, Italy, does not have an extradition treaty with India, he plans to recruit some mercenaries to go with him and bring Baba back. The first man he chooses is former Police Inspector Arjun Srivastav, who located and killed his wife's assailant on his own, and now lives as a single parent with his school-going daughter. And it is Arjun who recommends that the second man be Abhimanyu, who is currently lodged in Vashi Jail, and had been a former chauffeur of Baba himself. But before Karan can recruit Abhimanyu, he must spring him out of jail. The escapade takes place dramatically, and the trio, aided by Sonia, Abhimanyu's girlfriend, and Priya, a Press Reporter from "Aaj Tak", take over the arduous task of apprehending alive a fugitive whose whereabouts could be anywhere in Italy, France, Germany, or any other European country, and all of them know that their mission is surrounded by treachery, and that none of them may come back alive to tell their story.
Very few directors can strike the right balance between form and content. Several directors get swayed by style, concentrating more on giving the film a glossy and stylish look, while content is relegated to the background.
Besides, revisiting a classic – that’s still fresh in the minds of cinegoers – is in itself a risk. Comparisons with the original are inevitable and if the film doesn’t measure up to the expectations or fades in comparison, the best of efforts pale into irrelevance.
Vikram Bhatt revisits the all-time blockbuster SHOLAY. And the first question that you ask yourself after the screening has concluded is, did Bhatt pull it off? Does the style [so evident in the promos] match the content? Will ELAAN make it to the winning post?
ELAAN has been filmed at some of the most striking locales across the globe. And the producers [Venus] have spent a fortune in giving the film that international look and feel. Plus, in terms of style, ELAAN ranks amongst the superior products churned out by Bollywood in the recent times.
Sufficient reasons to rejoice? Should we pop champagne? No, wait…
ELAAN lacks in that vital department that’s the lifeline of every film – a cohesive script and taut screenplay. Modelled on the lines of SHOLAY [even Subhash Ghai’s KARMA and Rajkumar Santoshi’s CHINA GATE brought back memories of the classic], ELAAN could’ve been one great vendetta flick, but it comes across as a poor clone. May I say, all that glitters is not gold?
Terror has a new name – Baba Sikander [Mithun Chakraborty]. Drugs, murder, kidnapping are his game. The name Baba Sikander evokes fear. A mere phone call can sound your death knell.
Baba Sikander can finish your life while you’re still alive. Worse, sentence you to a living death. He recognizes no geographical boundaries, for terrorism is his reign. He respects no international laws, for he makes his own. His evil tentacles encircle the globe, terrorizing the rich and smashing the stubborn. Obey him and he may let you live. Incur his wrath and invite death.
But Kantilal Shah refuses to yield to his demands and pays the terrible price. His adopted son, Karan [Rahul Khanna], vows to capture the mighty Baba Sikander and drag him back to India, alive.
Assisting him in his mission are Arjun, an ex-cop [Arjun Rampal], Abhimanyu, one-time accomplice of Baba Sikander [John Abraham], Sonia, Abhimanyu’s sweetheart [Lara Dutta] and Priya, a news channel reporter [Amisha Patel]. Together, they are a team of five unlikely heroes…
ELAAN is like soda. The moment you throw open the cork, the drink bubbles out with vigour. But minutes later, the fizz settles. ELAAN grips you in the initial reels. The extortion threats by Mithun at the very start of the film and the subsequent assassination of the business tycoon make for a great start. And you expect the momentum to escalate when Rahul decides to settle scores with the don.
The other pivotal characters are introduced hereafter. It starts with Arjun. There’s not one scene that depicts that he’s a master planner/shrewd strategist but, strangely, Rahul chooses him to lay the trap for a don whom “even the government of three countries could not nab” [to quote the dialogues of the film].
Then John steps into the picture. His introduction is simply outstanding, but the execution of the escape sequence seems amateurish. In fact, escaping from the prison seems like a cakewalk here.
Then Lara enters the scene. But the change of events – the don confronting John and Lara – is undoubtedly an interesting and a welcome twist in the tale. Just when things had begun to stagnate, a punch like this only perk up the goings-on.
And yes, there’s Amisha [shown as a reporter with ‘Aaj Tak’], who joins the ‘army’ not because she empathizes with Rahul, but because she wants to interview him for her channel [investigative journalism]. Well, what can one say to that?
Nevertheless, despite a few hiccups here and there, it must be said that the first half of the film is watchable. You ignore the deficiencies in the script primarily because you expect the five-member army taking the don to task in the post-interval portions.
But the post-interval portions disappoint big time. The culprit here is the writer and the paucity of ideas comes to the fore in this half. · One, when the battlelines are drawn in the first half, you expect the two opposing sides to take on each other far more vigorously in the latter reels. But, all of a sudden, the focus shifts to romance [John-Lara and Amisha’s feelings for Rahul], while vendetta is forgotten for some time. In fact, the John-Lara track [‘Hulchul’] as well as the group song [‘Aatarloo Matarloo’] and the scene preceding it can easily be done away with. · Two, the biggest problem is that the don does nothing in the film. Fine, dons in Hindi films generally sit on a pedestal and rattle off orders, but when the don could’ve easily eliminated all five during an encounter at his guest house [he had laid a trap for them], he just lets them pass by. No explanations are offered for this ‘generous’ gesture! · Three, the climax is an absolute letdown. The convenience with which the four-member army [one of them has been eliminated by now!] persuade the French officials about the don [Amisha, a Hindi news channel reporter, starts rattling off dialogues in French with great fluency!], as also push the don to a tight corner, makes you wonder if he’s really all that powerful in the first place. Even in the climax, the don does nothing excepting sit silently in a room. What happened to all that fire, fury and venom the don was known for? Vikram Bhatt has made a stylish film, no two opinions on that, but he ought to know by now that a viewer wants a story at the end of the day. Gloss and grandeur are like an icing on a pudding, but what if the pudding itself is tasteless? Pravin Bhatt’s camerawork captures Europe exquisitely. Dialogues are wonderful at places. The costumes and styling [Anna Singh] are awesome.
ELAAN has a large cast, but only a few actors really make an impact. Rahul Khanna, in his first commercial outing, comes across as a dependable actor. He enacts his part with conviction. John Abraham looks great, acts well most of the times, but goes overboard in sequences that demand an outburst. He plays to the gallery most of the times. Arjun Rampal is functional. A very stereotypical act!
Lara Dutta lends freshness to the enterprise, but how one wishes she had a meatier role. Amisha Patel has been photographed extremely well, but her character seems forced. Giving her that extra edge/mileage in the narrative wasn’t really required. Mithun Chakraborty plays the mandatory villain with honesty, but he can’t recreate the terror of Gabbar Singh. Chunkey Pandey grossly irritates.
On the whole, ELAAN is body beautiful minus soul. At the box-office, not much to look forward to!
- Mithun Chakraborty ...Baba Sikandar
- Rahul Khanna .........Karan Shah
- Arjun Rampal .........Arjun
- Amisha Patel .........Priya
- John Abraham .........Abhimanyu
- Lara Dutta ...........Sonia
- Chunky Pandey ........Salim