What If? (2006)

Not Rated   |    |  Drama


What If? (2006) Poster

The Visa papers have arrived for stock broker, Salim Rajabali, and he is scheduled to leave in less than a week. Then everything goes wrong when he and his brother, Javed, inadvertently ... See full summary »

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15 September 2006 | zephsteele
9
| The Best Movie to Come out of Bollywood for a Long, Long Time
The likes of Naseeruddin Shah is a rarity in Bollywood. He is one of the very few actors in Indian cinema who has succeeded in bridging the lamentable divide that exists between 'sensible'(read realistic) and 'glamour'(songs and dances and fight sequences by the dozen peppered with rain dances/bathing beauties played out by the heroine/vamp in skimpy costumes out to titillate the viewers while walking the thin red line between the 'acceptable' and 'obscene', based on the notoriously arbitrary censorship laws in India) cinema during the 80s and early 90s. The 'parallel cinema' during the late '70s and early '80s produced several noteworthy films like 'Mirch Masala','Jaane Bhi Do Yaro', 'Masoom', 'Waisa Bhi Hota Hain', all of which were commercial successes. Although he then went on to act in movies like Tridev, which would undoubtedly fall into the 'glamour'/'mainstream' cinema, he is still considered to be one of the best actors ever in Indian cinema.

The long winding title ' Yun Hota Toh Kya Hota'( which can be translated as "What if it had happened thus?') comes with a mercifully shortened title "What if..?' in the subtitles accompanying the movie. The story is about 4 complete strangers bound by one fateful day in their lives.

The Bride There is the newly wed couple of Tilottama Das and Hemant Punj (played by Konkona Sen Sharma and Jimmy Sheirgill) who have just tied the note after an 'internet' courtship and marriage. Hemant who works in the U.S. is about to travel back to his work, the day after his wedding reception. Tilottama would stay back with her in-laws -Papaji(played by Ravi Baswani) and Mom and a dysfunctional Sis-in-law undergoing a divorce, till her American visa gets ready. Caught between a sadistic mother-in-law and a schizophrenic sis-in-law, and the visa papers that never arrive and long distance calls from her husband that she is never able to attend, she decides get to the U.S. by whatever means it takes- be it lying to the officer at the visa section or keeping her motives hidden from her overbearing mum-in-law.

The Student Rahul Bhide(Ankur Khanna) is a brilliant but impoverished medical graduate who is caught between lack of finances and a sense of duty towards his ailing father on the one hand and the prospects that awaits him in the land of opportunities on the other. Aided by a twist of fate and financed by his friend Kay Modi(Ayesha Takia) he travels to the U.S. in search of his destiny.

The Lover The stock broker son (Irrfan Khan) of an underworld Don( Saroj Khan), gets involved in the murder of a corrupt police officer and is forced to leave to the U.S., where he is to meet with a prospective employer who would take him under his wings. He is torn between his love for the much older, but passionate lover Namrata( Suhasini Mulay) and his inability to reconcile with her infidelity on the other.

The Showman Rajubhai Patel ( Paresh Rawal) is a small time organizer of 'cultural shows' in the U.S. and it costs any aspiring dancer a small fortune to join his group. He is approached by his erstwhile love interest Tara Gandhi( Ratna Pathak Shah) and asked to take her daughter Payal(Shahana Goswami) to the U.S., away from an abusive father and poverty, paying him with the money that she received by mortgaging her home. Rajubhai for the first time in his life is fathering an innocent girl on her first trip abroad.

Four startlingly different lives, yet bound by fate to come together in one unexpected journey. The fate they encounter unfurls in the climax of the film.

Exceptionally well directed, the film has a well written screenplay by Uttam Gada and some excellent photography by Hemant Chaturvedi. The transition between the characters and their environs is well reflected in the photography, which I understand was achieved by using a different lens for each protagonist and the transition from the pastel shades of India to the vibrant colors of the U.S. is captivating. Some excellent editing by Hina Salyada and a sense of conciseness in the director( which is so very often sorely lacking in Indian Cinema) makes the film an enjoyable watch. Also noteworthy is the Visual Effects by Pankaj Khandpur who tops it off with some excellent shots for the climax.

All-in-all a welcome breath of fresh air in Hindi cinema which has now shown lots of promise with the advent of a new crop of directors and script writers who believe that cinema is not only about endless strings of song and dance woven around opulent weddings and display of wealth, which would be as out of place in middle class India as anywhere else in the world.

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