Film Review: 'Fitoor'
Opened: 12 February 2016
Cast: Tabu, Aditya Roy Kapur, Katrina Kaif, Aditi Rao Hydari, Rahul Bhat, Akshay Oberoi, Lara Dutta, Ajay Devgn
Director: Abhishek Kapoor
Producers: Abhishek Kapoor, Sidharth Roy Kapur
'Pehli baar jab dekha tha tumhe Firdaus, bomb phat gaya tha mere sar mein.. Ek ek cheez tumhari yaad hai mujhe... tumhara scarf, tumhari kahaanyon ki kitaab... Chinaar ka lal... Woh ek ek din jo maine roz jiya hai...'
The sheer passion with with Aditya Roy Kapur utters those lines, connects you with his very being, and makes you believe in his unrequited love for his mysterious yet icy and eccentric fair maiden, which however fickle, comes alive thanks to Abhishek Kapoor’s flawless eye for detail, his artistic vision, Amit Trivedi's lilting musical score, and all round spectacular production values, that hold the film together even in its weaker moments.
Whenever you adapt a literary classic you have to be prepared for the inevitable comparisons that come with it and as a rule of thumb, the cinematic retelling almost never quite lives up to its source. Kapoor must have been feeling pretty darned adventurous then, when he cast a relative newbie, Kapur, in all his smouldering machismo and rugged splendour and Katrina-spot-me-from-the-ornate-Kashmiri-furniture Kaif in a film that relies solely on passion and the chemistry they invoke, and one that rests solely on their forbidden love.
What was never a cause for concern though, was casting Tabu as Begum Hazrat, his reincarnation of the jilted, twisted spinster Miss Havisham in the Charles Dickens novel. That she's astoundingly good comes as absolutely no surprise, what however does though, is how both Kapur, and yes.... Wait for it... even Kaif come into their own and deliver what are astonishingly, their career best performances.
In frames that come alive (Anay Goswamy) and encapsulate Kashmir, Agra, Delhi and even London in all their splendour, Fitoor is perhaps less a retelling, and more an homage to Dickens' acclaimed novel Great Expectations, and revolves around a rogue-ish, albeit talented orphan Noor (Kapur), and his fascination for an uptight Begum’s (Tabu) daughter, Firdaus (Kaif), with whom he falls for literally at first sight. Their love though, is not without its trials and tribulations and is stifled by someone or something at literally every turn, but Noor, blinded by unrelenting passion never succumbs to any obstacle, until eventually it becomes abundantly clear that there's a bigger conspiracy, even beyond his grasp that's at play here and not just fate poking fun at his misfortune.
Despite a mediocre screenplay (the film flits between Kashmir and London at random as do the settings and it's never quite clear when the film is actually set), and a few redundant and convenient scenes, there's a lot here that actually comes together given what Kapoor was up against, with a film that felt like it would never see the light of day.
For one, his leading man Kapur gives the role his all, firing up an naive intensity and a conviction that we haven't seen from him ever, and he's incredibly easy on the eye too, working that sexy lost boy swagger to Srinagar and back, which only adds to his rustic appeal. The way in which the camera literally caresses his chiselled torso, it becomes abundantly clear that it's not just the audience but the film's production staff too that was on tenterhooks when he stripped off in his all bare chested glory. That he sets the screen ablaze with Kaif in a few scenes also works, massively in the film's favour.
Tabu's is the most complex part, expectedly – a spinster caught between guilt and rage, and while her motivations and odd eccentricities are never quite clear, we could literally write pages on how good she is here. She makes us empathise with a somewhat despicable character, further cementing the fact that she's an actress of unmitigated caliber.
The biggest surprise here though has to be Kaif, who looking ethereal besides, momentously delivers her career best and succumbs to a part, that perhaps nobody besides her could have done justice to, and admittedly even though it's all a little relative, her diction seems to have improved by leaps and bounds and there are a few pertinent scenes especially with Tabu where she holds up rather well. More where this came from please Kat!
Apart from its key players, Fitoor boasts of a strong supporting cast too, and despite being a little gimmicky, both Ajay Devgn and Aditi Rao Hydari make their mark in important cameos. Lara Dutta though, is woefully wasted and deserved a better deal.
To sum up, despite being far from perfect, Fitoor springs quite the surprise. The core romance although a little far fetched is utterly convincing, and the film itself has been crafted with a creativity and artistic flair that we haven't witnessed from filmmakers in a while. It's a respectable ode to a Dickens classic which is no mean feat in itself – I'm going with three stars.