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Fanaa (2006)

CRUMBLIES… 4 crumblies

And another winner from Vibrant Vinay!

We didn’t even discuss its length, or what it was about. He just looked at me coolly one morning, muttered, “to destroy oneself before death”, “Aamir” and “Kajol“, and I was sat back in the arm chair, ringing the bell for tea and biscuits and a damned good time. A film of two halves, one with a nasty mullet, one with improbabilities galore, but adventure, intensity and a challenge to the sympathies: Fanaa (which means the death before death thing, dumbass. What our love can do…)

In part one, Kajol is Zooni, a blind girl away to the big city with her friends and dance troop. She calls her emotional Dad and sensible Mum (KIrron Kher, warm-hearted authority incarnate) when advice is needed, but is finding herself in ways they could never have hoped for. Especially given they live in the sticks. Well, they actually live very well indeed – gorgeous landscape, mighty house, loving community and their daughter… You’d hope nothing bad happens.

Popping out in New Delhi, and defended by her friends, Zooni is pursued by the awful-awful mullet Khan is wearing, and his character, the poetic and passionate tour guide Rehan.

Things heat up.

Zooni forces him to honour his job and cans a date (oh yeah, train that boy). The next day he shows her the sounds and flavours of the city. They swap poetry, testing each other’s minds, and fall musically in love. Gloriously done. And whoever’s idea it was to have Kajol, all touch and feel given the blindness, swing around in beautifully lit rain, soaked to the sexy skin, well, I assume there was a warning for old men in the audience. Vinay and old Jack here both cast a glance at the defibrillator as the two finally  hit the sack.

And then…well…Bollywood does its thing. Kajol has an eye operation and wakes up to see her parents, looking forward to marriage, only to hear that Rehan has died in a terrorist blast.

I know!

But, deep breath, we cut to the boy dealing with his angry, terrorist family…saying the job is done. Cue intermission.

Overly mushy, funny, warm, this first half is a romantic comedy gifted cinematography to make the city look gorgeous, the boy unforgivably mulleted (I’m not letting it go – IT IS HORRIBLE), and the fortunately blind girl look heart-proddingly beautiful. The use and pull between Rehan and Zooni is the stuff of popcorn and sighs.

Part Two is something else. Seven years have passed, Zooni can see, her mum is dead, and Rehan is on a Bond-like mission through snow, trees and gunfire. It’s all parachute, machine guns and snow-mobiles as he gets shot, stabbed and abandoned in the middle of nowhere. He staggers to a familiar house, a boy (Rehan!) opens the door, and he collapses as Zooni peers out…

If you’re in the mood for quality kitsch and a fast-amble through genres, Fanaa is for you. The last hour is in the old father’s world, Rishi Kapoor giving off a widower’s loves and regrets whilst still being a bit silly and lovable. Old Jack loved him for that. The micro-family around him learns to cooperate and – you keep hoping – recognise itself before doom beckons. Zooni tends to the unrecognised Rehan, young Rehan gets to know old Rehan, the audience waits for the various pennies to drop…

As I said, for me, another winner. Not perfect – that mullet, the improbabilities, the plot-convenient eyesight – took me out of it. But you cannot fault its pulpy perfection, some of the edgy local issues it plays with, and the performances of its star duo. Khan is as intense and watchful as back in Lagaan: Once Upon a Time in India (2001), but dripping in guilt. Kajol is hugely entertaining be she blind and loving, or sighted and motherly. And the parents frame their story with loves and regrets. So Vinay and I felt acknowledged.

Amazon Prime in Hindi. iTunes for the subtitled version. Or watch with the sound off and bask in the prettiness of it all.

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