Producer: Target Films / Aditya Rai
Director: Naresh Malhotra
Starring: Aishwarya Rai, Arjun Rampal, Rakhee, Paresh Rawal, Isha Koppikar, Tiku Talsania, Priyanshu Chatterjee (Sp. Appearance)
Music: Nadeem-Shravan
Lyrics: Sameer

Genre: Romantic Drama
Recommended Audience: General
Released on: January 17, 2003
Approximate Running Time: 3 hrs.
Reviewed by: Suraj Das
Reviewer's Rating: 6.5 out of 10


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Times are slowly changing for the better in Bollywood. Gone is the time when a movie’s success relied solely on the acting and star power of the hero. Today’s leading actresses are just as important, if not more so, than today’s leading actors. Some time ago, a film like Target Films’ Dil Ka Rishta, directed by Naresh Malhotra, wouldn’t really be possible. Dil Ka Rishta stars reigning Bollywood queen Aishwarya Rai in what is essentially a one-woman-show, with lead actors Arjun Rampal and Priyanshu Chatterjee relegated to only supporting roles.

The film begins when a rich industrialist scion, Jai (Arjun Rampal), falls in love with a teacher at an impaired children’s school. He finds out the girl’s name is Tia (Aishwarya Rai) and begins to pursue her. Much to his dismay, he finds that she is already in love with and plans to marry a simple working class man, Raj (Priyanshu Chatterjee). Dejected, Jai turns to alcohol for solace. One day when driving in an inebriated state, Jai gets into an accident. An accident that changes Jai, Tia, and Raj’s lives for ever.

The movie belongs entirely to Aishwarya. As usual, she looks stunning but she also impresses with her acting in a sensitive performance. Her character is given the widest range of emotions, and she relates them all with marvelously calculated conviction and elegance. All of Tia’s major transitions – warm wife, distant amnesia patient, maternal figure, yearning lover – are handled incredibly well in Ms. Rai’s charming performance. While her work here isn’t a patch on her superlative turn as Parvati in last year’s Devdas, it’s still leaps and bounds beyond what most other actresses in her league are capable of. Fans of Aishwarya’s dance moves will be pleased as well; she single handedly uplifts Nadeem-Shravan’s average score with her extraordinary dancing skills.

Unfortunately, Rai is just about the only truly notable feature in this otherwise poorly conceived and poorly executed drama. First off, Vrinda Rai’s script is quite bad. A conspicuous mish-mash of films as old as Magnificent Obsession and as recent as Tum Bin, it is as good as it is original. The amnesia twist is about as skillfully interwoven as one could expect from a B-grade soap opera. And the love story between Arjun and Aishwarya’s characters in the second half is entirely illogical and beyond belief. There is a degree to which audiences can suspend disbelief and allow filmmakers some creative license, but this film crosses it. It simply doesn’t make sense that Tia’s character would continue to love Jai after learning the truth about her accident.

Naresh Malhotra’s direction fails to lend the narrative credibility. He is largely unable to manipulate the performers effectively and there is nothing really skillful or compelling about the filmmaking techniques he employs. Malhotra also falters as the film’s editor. There is a lot of extra footage that can easily be cut without sacrificing the essence of the film’s narrative. As the film is, these extraneous scenes simply drag the film on and dilute the impact of the already weak drama.

Aishwarya is really the only performer who manages to rise above the poor quality of the script and direction. Priyanshu is charming and shows off some solid talent in light-hearted scenes, but his role is too short to leave much of an impact. Arjun Rampal has ample space to display a wide range of histrionics, but he is rarely up to task. His voice and expressions are largely monotonous throughout, barring a few scenes of somewhat impressive work. Isha Koppikar overflows with charm, but her role is ineffectual. Rakhee seems disinterested and Paresh Rawal is given very little to do.

Thankfully, production values are quite good. Ashok Mehta’s cinematography is superb, as usual. In fact Mr. Mehta achieves more in the way of establishing atmosphere and meaning through his carefully calculated shots and camera work than the director. Background music worked and production design and other technical work was sound as well. Dil Ka Rishta’s one great aspect – Aishwarya – uplifts the film from the “pass” category. This is far from award-grabbing, critically acclaimed cinema – but it is also a safe distance from the awful Bollywood drivel we have become all too familiar with. Worth a watch, if only for Aishwarya’s acting and dancing; but proceed with caution (and your finger on the fast forward button).