Reviewing the Reviews: Aurangzeb

20 May,2013

Aurangzeb

Key Cast: Arjun Kapoor, Sasha Agha

Written & Directed By: Atul Sabharwal

Produced By: Aditya Chopra

 

This film from the Yashraj Films stable seems to have been made to give post-Ishaqzaade Arjun Kapoor something worthwhile to do – a double role so early in his career, though he was incapable of creating two distinct characters.

 

Atul Sabharwal made his film debut with an eighties style melodrama, updated with current references to the real estate driven growth of a hamlet Gurgaon into a city of malls and highrises. But after setting up an intriguing premise the script tied itself up in knots. The film got an average of 2.5 stars, but the reviews were not scathing – most felt underwhelmed. Opening day reports said response of the audience was “lukewarm.”

 

Sukanya Verma of rediff.com enjoyed the film. “Deeply derivative of the traditional Hindi film narrative where blood-ties gain precedence over individual turbulence, Aurangzeb works even in its inept form. Because, one, Sabharwal constructs a compelling, intricate conspiracy of deceit and motive around predominantly grey characters, where chances are anyone can turn a volte face, for better or worse. And because Aurangzeb’s momentum is steady and swift, the loopholes are skilfully minimised even if only temporarily. So, sure, you do wonder about the loosely established relationships, convenient set-ups and undisclosed footage of significant reactions, but much later.”

 

Shubhra Gupta of The Indian Express commented, “Somewhere in the too-complicated strands of Aurangzeb is a film struggling to cohere. This is what we have: too many subplots with threads hanging, criss-crossing a main plot that is over baked and undercooked….The trouble with Aurangzeb is not that it isn’t ambitious. It is, and that’s good. Because after a long time there’s a film which invites you to work on unraveling the threads. But right from its too-crowded epilogue, where information about the characters comes flying out at you, to its curiously impact-less lead player who sparks to life on occasion, to its long-drawn scenes where sometimes you feel the lines are being said only for effect and not because they have organically grown out of the conversation, Aurangzeb is trying for too much. This makes the film dense and uneven: some parts have power, the others are inert.”

 

Karan Anshuman of Mumbai Mirror praised it, but expressed reservations. “And while the movie succeeds at a thematic level, it falters with the details. Critical plot points are weakly executed. The crisis upfront that forces a Don-like potentially dangerous exchange of twins separated in their youth (I say these words without irony) is justified almost offhandedly – to restore a dead man’s honour. In the climax too, equations change faster than you can say “traitor” because a mobile phone voice message mistakenly records a critical exchange leading to murder. Feeble, for a story with such ambition.”

 

Nandini Ramnath of The Mint wrote, “The title is supposed to work as a metaphor, in the same way as the Hollywood film Chinatown (1974) and Shanghai (2012) are about abstract ideas (falsehood and aspiration respectively) rather than actual places. Aurangzeb is about inheritance, and it initially seems that Sabharwal might be able to bring new ideas to the cliche that blood is thicker than water. His movie is spilling over with characters that conform to the popular stereotype of Mughal emperor Aurangzeb – a ruthless and power-hungry maniac whose path to the throne is littered with the bodies of family members and acquaintances. The battleground is transported into a boardroom, and a bottomed-out war chest becomes a loss-making balance sheet. This is a movie that aspires to be about the mini-empires that exist within – and often work against – the Indian republic, but it scuttles its own ambitions midway through. It becomes yet another movie about twins separated by circumstance and brought together by Hindi cinema.”

 

Anuj Kumar of The Hindu was appreciative too. “The intricacies of land grabbing and the manipulations that go with it are deftly handled. Atul is talking about an India where only two types of people hold sway: the politicians with power or the corporations with money, and everybody wants to pick a side. But the way conscience spirals in the second half, you start feeling even for the villains of the piece. In the 1970s and ’80s, melodrama was not such a bad word because it emanated from reasons that demanded unbridled commotion. Here you feel such turmoil all over again. Even before you begin to find a loophole, Atul addresses it and comes up with logic. It may not be convincing all the time but you go home with a feeling of watching an honest effort.”

 

Shubha Shetty Saha of Mid-day was quite critical. “Story offers no novelty. In fact, at one point the story reminded me of an innocent story called Do Phool, which had Neetu Kapoor play twins, one left with the mother and the other with the father. Well, this is just to emphasise how old the story line is. But a better treatment, a more sharply edited film and this story could have been turned into a thrilling fare. But unfortunately, the movie moves at such a meandering and self-indulgent pace that after a point you stop caring if it moves forward or sideways.”

 

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