My other title for this review was "this is a pretty good film for such a mess". Director Ahmed Khan throws in just about every directorial style and most of the plot contrivances that he can think of, no matter how minor or unrelated to the main body of the film. The "problem"--what makes this a pretty good film despite that fact, is that on a detailed view, he's good at all of those styles (aside from a few moments of supreme cheesiness, perhaps), and if you are patient enough, or concentrate enough, to bore into the basic plot, the story is decent, with potential to be great. But this is a film that could strongly benefit by being cut down to about an hour and forty minutes, rather than its current almost three-hour running time.
The story, which doesn't really kick into gear until after an hour has gone by--credits still appear about 20 minutes into the film--is centered on a "gangster family of orphans", curiously enough. Although I'm not quite clear on some of the details, the leader of the family is the eldest son, Arjun Rana (Sunny Deol), who looks and acts an awful lot like an Indian Kevin Spacey. He also has a brother, Karan (Sohail Khan), whom I believe was the biological son of their gangster father, and an adopted sister, Bindiya (Nauheed Cyrusi). I don't recall (or it wasn't said) what happened to the father. It's also not said just what the family does--what kinds of criminal activities, presumably--to sustain their wealth. And at one point, I was getting very confused by the fact that everyone was calling everyone else "brother" (presumably there was some slight inflection difference between "blood brother" and " 'spiritual' brother", but that's a generous guess).
At any rate, the Rana family is eventually contrasted with two brothers (these two I know were blood brothers), Saahil (John Abraham) and Sanju (Sunil Shetty), who are from the "wrong side of the tracks", economically--the side where Arjun had his roots. Sanju is a mechanic and has a mostly benign street gang of his own, and Saahil is a college student--he goes to the same school as Bindiya and Karan. In addition to all the kitchen sinks (which I'll detail a bit in a minute), the film also gets into some of the gangster stuff you'd expect, but eventually it's much more of a love triangle film, with Bindiya placed between the love of her brother, Karan (this is one of the "forbidden lines" of the title), and Saahil.
There's a line of dialogue, in Main Madhuri Dixit Banna Chahti Hoon (2003), I believe, where someone in the film business says that sometimes Bollywood films start shooting even without a script--they just assemble a cast and make it up on the fly. Whether that's true or not, Lakeer begins as if that was the case. The first hour plays more like a director, cinematographer, editor or production designer's reel--a reel of unrelated clips put together to show their skill in a wide variety of styles which they hope will get them work--than it plays like a film.
In this first hour, the cinematography is technically impressive. Johny Lal uses a lot of cutting-edge "extended techniques", including different film stocks, changing speeds, swooping crane shots, skewed angles and so on. The production design is lush and beautiful, loaded with intense colors and textures, from the sets to the costumes and props. The editing is varied and also employs a lot of modern "extended techniques", including "MTV-styled" quick cuts. The songs are unusual and catchy.
The scenes in this section rapidly change from slower sections establishing the Rana family at home to car racing sequences straight out of The Fast and the Furious (2001), modern Beach Blanket Bingo (1965) song and dance sequences that feature the gangster family all smiling and dancing, singing "What's Up?" while others rap, Basketball sequences that shout--"Hey, look how modern and hip we are" but that can't convey any drama or sense of the game, extended cheerleading songs, updated Rock 'n' Roll High School (1979) stuff, and so on. It's clear that a lot of this stuff is intended to capture the youth market (and a quick glance at the voting demographics so far suggests that it may have worked--Lakeer is much more strongly liked proportional to how young the viewer is). But as impressive as a lot of this stuff is technically, it's not very coherent as a whole, and it feels like beating around the bush until Khan thinks of a story to tell.
More curious, once he does think of a story to tell, shortly after the hour mark, he largely leaves the showboating technical stuff by the wayside. He occasionally gives a backward glance at it--his memory isn't that bad--but the cinematography, production design, editing and so forth become more conventional, or even pedestrian, for the rest of the film. The story becomes good enough to carry the proceedings. The gangster material is especially good, but unfortunately, it's more flirted with than engaged in. This could have been a great, gritty film, but it's too schizophrenic for that.
Also, once the showboating calms down, it lets other minor problems come to the fore. Some many will not notice--such as the sound design, which has "punch" sound effects when a character grabs another by the lapels and goofy "swoop" sounds to accompany cinematographic and editing manipulations. Some many will be more prone to notice, like the occasional overacting, often resulting in humorously scrunched up faces--intended to show "emotional anguish".
But overall, Lakeer isn't a failure as long as you can slog your way through the chaff. There's at least one compelling story and a lot of admirable style at the film's core. I would recommend the film with caution proportional to your age.
12 out of 16 found this helpful