Cast Anil Kapoor, Anurag Sinha, Shefali Shah, Aditi Sharma, Habib Tanvir, Akash Khurana, Sai Tamhankar, Jamini Pathak, Aroon Bakshi, Sukhwinder Singh
Producer, Director Subhash Ghai
Banner Mukta Searchlight Films
Cinematography Somak Mukherjee
Music Director Sukhwinder Singh
Background Music Ranjit Barot
Screenplay Sachin Bhowmik, Subhash Ghai, Akash Khurana
If ‘Kisna’ and ‘Yaadein’ weren’t proof enough, Subhash Ghai’s latest film puts it literally in ‘Black & White’- the man is clearly past his prime. And I don’t say this just because of the fact, that post the debacle of a filmmaker’s last few films, it almost becomes fashionable to write him off. ‘Black & White’ is not nearly as atrocious or pointless as Ghai’s abovementioned films- it is clearly a well-intentioned and brave attempt by the showman to walk a different, less ‘showy’ path- so much so that even the trademark Ghai cameo is missing here. If only that were enough to make us applaud this less than impressive effort.
It has been wonderful to see Ghai’s efforts at promoting new, young talent through his production house and his film school- even if these efforts sometimes produce garbage like ‘Bombay To Bangkok’- and one wishes that Ghai had given the reins for this potentially good film to a more contemporary director. For no matter how hard Ghai tries to restrain himself, subtlety and realism are not his strong points, and it shows.
But then again, the director isn’t the only one to blame.
‘Black & White’ has an inconsistent, limp and ultimately dumped-down script that ultimately swallows the few sparkling moments it contains. Even if one chooses to ignore the utter lack of complexity and the simplicity (in film that supposedly tries to show shades of human nature between- well, ‘Black & White’), what is inexcusable is the total absence of gripping tension or tone. The film- essentially designed as a dramatic thriller- is hardly dark, hard-hitting or thrilling enough. There’s an altogether silly and unnecessary romantic track, caricatured portrayals and some emotionally manipulative moments, which are just too obvious to excuse. The editing is shoddy, even amateurish at times, and Delhi could definitely have been captured better and more strikingly on camera.
But ‘Black & White’s biggest undoing is definitely the crucial main character of the suicide bomber – and while it is easy to say that he is meant to be mysterious and ambiguous- the point is, we aren’t even remotely interested in finding out what really lies beneath the blank-faced brute. For a fidayeen terrorist forging his identity and gaining people’s trust in order to carry out his mission, it is rather baffling how he tries and make it as evident as possible that he is an extremist. So our man has stubble and a scowl permanently pasted on his face and spouts orthodox mumbo-jumbo. What’s more, he even shoots some of his terrorist comrades on the way with alarming nonchalance because they do not conform to the latest Al-Qaeda Certified Jihadi (AQCJ) Standards, in what are the film’s few unwitting but priceless descents into comedy. What follows this one-line character graph at the end are some hurried attempts at character development including a clichéd, tacky flashback sequence and then, of course the predictable change of conscience.
But it would indeed be early and cruel to already dismiss newcomer Anurag Sinha with his first film, who despite a frustratingly inert and impassive performance shows promise (if Abhishek Bachchan can get a zillion chances, why deny him another?). Also perhaps what makes you give the debutant the benefit of doubt is the fact that the script and director seem to barely allow him to emote, so much so that in the end, when a real, full blooded sound really escapes his stony lips, he just doesn’t stop shouting- it is almost as if he is relieved that he can finally speak, after all.
But credit must be given where it is due, and Anil Kapoor and Shefali Shah’s seemingly effortless yet powerful performances lift the film by more than a few notches to raise it to make sure that ‘Black & White’ is never less than watchable. Together, they ooze tender warmth- making a great onscreen couple- and it is truly wonderful to watch these ever-dependable actors.
But the real joy of course, is of watching stage veteran Habib Tanvir on screen- and for this wonderful gesture alone, Subhash Ghai can be forgiven. Every moment with him is a pleasure to behold, and it is a lovely touch that the film ends with his voice echoing in our ears. He is absolutely fantastic, and forms the crux of the film’s humane message. If ‘Black & White’ deserves a chance, it is a lot because of him