KURBAAN (2009)

  • Release Date: 20/11/2009
  • Cast: Saif Ali Khan, Kareena Kapoor Khan, Om Puri, Vivek Oberoi, Diya Mirza, Kirron Kher, and Nauheed Cyrusi
  • Director: Rensil D’Silva

There was something about Kurbaan that I loved from the get-go. There were so many things in it that brought the realism, on which it depended so desperately, down many notches. But in spite of that, the film never ceased to entertain me or for that matter affect me to a certain extent. Now that it is available on YouTube, I have been re-watching it over and over again over the last few weeks and with every subsequent view, it has got more and more entertaining. Sure it has many issues which are not all that new to Bollywood but it can’t be denied that Kurbaan is a pretty good Indian-terrorism-centric thriller. There aren’t many of those in Bollywood. The ones that are there are rather lame or over the top. Hence Kurbaan turned out to be a wee bit more likable than it would have been, had it had some tougher competition.

Ehsaan (Saif Ali Khan) joins an Indian college as a professor and is immediately smitten by the vivacious Avantika (Kareena Kapoor Khan) who also teaches there. The two hit it out hard and soon the romance reaches a stage where the next reasonable step seems to be marriage. Avantika gets an opportunity to complete her education in New York that she had left halfway because of her father’s ailing health. However, now things are different. Her father is fit but she has Ehsaan in her life and he is based in India. Ehsaan, however, turns out to be a gem of a guy and agrees to relocate with her so that she can pursue her dreams. Even before the euphoria of getting to do her heart’s will and having a man like Ehsaan in her life can sink in, Avantika gets sucked into a nefarious plot wherein she realizes that her husband is, in fact, a dreaded terrorist who used her to get to the US on a clean note and now plans to execute a plot similar to the 9/11 with a sleeping cell that has been waiting for his arrival.

The members of this cells are none other than her neighbors in New York and are led by the iron-willed Bhaijaan (Om Puri) and her equally ill-informed and ruthless wife Nashreen Apa (Kirron Kher). Avantika is captive, pregnant and helpless with no one but a journalist to hang her hopes on. The journalist, Riyaz, has lost the love of his life in an earlier raid by the same group and is now out to get the perpetrators. He is also torn between doing what is right and his identity as Muslim and the baggage that comes with it. As the film progresses, it turns into an exasperating race against time for all involved. Avantika needs to save herself and her unborn child from the clasp of the terrorist. The terrorists want to bomb the New York folks and remind them of their power. Riyaz wants to save Avantika and foil the blasts. The government wants to stop the blasts and catch the terrorists. It all culminates in a gripping climax.

Kurbaan has an absorbing story to start with. The screenplay is gripping. The initial CCD-romance between Saif and Kareena works just as well.  Those are probably the only light moments of the film and they are so well done that one can watch them without thinking about what was coming next and how it would benefit from the romance. I loved the chemistry between Saif and Kareena and the ease of it. They look extremely gullible and comfortable which serves the characters in the film really well and give out the right vibes. They seem like a couple who are falling in love and once married, they look so comfortable and happy that it’s almost heartbreaking when the tragedy strikes. The second half of the film wouldn’t have been so shocking had it not been for the initial romance.

Speaking of the second half, the film turns a whole new leaf once the terrorist plot is uncovered by Avantika. The portions involving him and Avantika are extremely well done. Even the planning and the modus oparandi of the terrorists are shown in a believable manner. There is little action and whatever of it is there sprawls out of emotional outbursts and need of the hour. Hence it is more or less pretty effective and well done. Saif Ali Khan as Ehsaan knocks it out of the park in the second half. He is evidently in love with Avantika but he wants to ignore the fact. It wouldn’t be wrong to say that he wants to hate her but he cannot. Avantika gets pregnant and that only further brings him closer to her as he had previously lost his child and wife. He is genuinely torn between what he has set out to do and his love for his wife and child. Saif brings out the emotional intricacies of these moments wonderfully and adds a lot to the role.

Kareena is as good as the victim as she was as the falling in love CCD-girl. I believe her act in the second half is even better as she has to be grim, scared and angry all at the same time. Suffice is to say that she brings her A-game to the table. More than Bhaijaan, it is Nashreen Apa that I was afraid of. Kirron Kher is immensely hateable as the 2nd – in Command of Bhaijaan who would go to any extent to keep the women under wrap and sacrifice them without remorse when the time comes. She is the kind of villain that we need more of in Hindi cinema. Om Puri is his usual self and he does a great job with the role. His somber mood and fearful gazes are all present here. One look at him and you believe that he can do the things that he speaks of doing. The fact that he keeps his whole act very subtle only helps the cause that much more.

Speaking of my issues with the film, I had quite a few.

Vivek Oberoi though does well in certain emotional scenes but doesn’t work for most of the part. His American accent that he brings out only now and then is a huge stickler. I totally hated it. Moreover, he falls flat in certain scenes that he needed to really rise up to. Every time he is in the presence of Saif Ali Khan, his deficiencies are highlighted even more.

The film takes a lot of cinematic liberties. That weighs down on the believability of the film. Certain things happen that are too much to accept. Example – Kareena puts an important info on a piece of paper and keeps it under a cup of coffee. The same cup finds its way to Bhaijaan who lifts it up all the way to his lips before it is taken from his hands by Nashreen Apa and yet none of them notice the paper that even we as viewers can see. That’s not all. There is also the issue with the ease with which Saif is able to fool Kareena and the things that he is able to do without getting caught. They are just too much to fathom.

In a climactic scene, Kareena seduces Saif to get out some sensitive info which also felt terribly out of place in a film that up till then did a good job at being subtle.

Having said all that, Kurbaan is still an extremely gripping and investing film that should have done a lot better than it did. I am of the opinion that in years to come it will be discovered by film aficionados like myself and will become a kind of guilty pleasure that can be enjoyed over and over again.

Rating: 3/5 (3 out of 5 Stars)


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