The Bhatt Family have always made stylish thrillers. Sadak (1992 - Sanjay Dutt, Pooja Bhatt) was a blockbuster hit with fantastic music and top notch performances. Criminal (1995 - Manisha Koirala, Nagarjuna, Ramya Krishnan) was a bit disappointing but had it´s classy moments. 1996 saw the release of the low-budget, but high quality Fareb (1996 - Suman Ranganathan, Faraaz Khan, Milind Gunaji), which had a gripping plot and a fine breakthrough performance for heroine Suman Ranganathan. The Bhatt´s scored again in 1996 with Dastak (Sushmita Sen, Sharad Kapoor), a suspense thriller based on a crazed stalker and Miss. Universe. After Dastak came Sangharsh (Priety Zinta, Akshay Kumar, Ashutosh Rana), a disappointing remake of Silence of the Lambs which, again, had it´s strong points. The Bhatt´s last thrilling outing was in 1999 with the moderate success of Kartoos (Sanjay Dutt, Manisha Koirala, Jackie Shroff), which was a fast paced suspensful ride from start to finish.
Finally, in 2001, the family is back with Kasoor, a stylish suspense film that hits (most of) the right notes. The film has a very arty treatment with all the commercial ingrediants, not to mention a superb performance from Aftab Shivdasani, who, post-Mast proves that he´s here to stay. Kasoor also introduces Canadian model Lisa Ray.
Lisa Ray plays Simran Bhargav, a lawyer who defends Shekhar Saxena (Aftab Shivdasani), a millionaire accused of gruesomely killing his wife and maid. Shekhar plots to win his lawyer´s trust by seducing her, after which she believes in his innocence and fights for his cause. Simran succeeds in winning the case. The following morning after spending the night with Shekhar, Simran finds in his closet a typewriter that holds the key to the mystery of the murders, and disproves Shekhar´s innocence. Simran, feeling betrayed, finds herself caught in a web of seduction, malice, and murder.
Aftab Shivdasani is first rate. After a sterling debut role in romantic fantasy Mast, Aftab proves his versatility and plays the anti-hero with panache. His performance is one that is sure to win him accolades across the board. A well-etched character is extremely important to an actor´s performance, and even with such a character, Lisa Ray´s performance is, at best, average. She looks stunningly beautiful, but an actress she is not. With flat dialogue delivery and wooden expressions, about all Ray manages to do is take her clothes off. Still she has performed well enough in the court scenes. Ray has already signed Vikram Bhatt´s next film, coincedentally, another suspense thriller with Fardeen Khan. Fardeen has improved with leaps and bounds since the awful Prem Aggan (Go watch RGV´s slick suspense film Jungle if you don´t believe me). Hopefully, Lisa Ray will do the same. Of the supporti ng cast, Apoorva Aghinotri has a blink-and-you-miss-me role, which is sad because he showed plenty of potential in Subhash Ghai´s Pardes. Ashutosh Rana´s performance is quite good as the cop.
Kasoor is not without it´s many faults. It dangerously teeters between being a love story and a slick suspense thriller, deciding in the last 20 minutes to go for thrills, rather then tears. Director Vikram Bhatt does a fantastic job pre-intermission, but seems to lose his way for a while in the second half, only to redeem himself with a great climax. The pre-intermission proceedings are very well executed. Many found the first half of the film to be slow, but I found it to be rather well done. Bhatt is also hampared by his need for commerciality, throwing in some unnecessary songs and some awkward moments of passion (Not a film for the kids).
Nadeem Shravan´s excellent music is definitely a plus point for the film, with "Kitni Bechain" and "Mohobbat Ho Na Jaaye" being the numbers that stand out. The cinematography is also fantastic, capturing some gorgeous locales. Technically, the film is well-made. Some crisper editing could have made this film killer.
All in all, Mukesh Bhatt´s Kasoor packs a certain amount of punch with its fantastic plot, great music, and a swell performance from Aftab, but could have been in a whole other league with a different director like Mahesh Bhatt. Vikram Bhatt showed a great deal of talent with Fareb, in which he took a cast of all newcomers and made a great film, which managed to do good business at the box office, suprising everyone. He was also helped by fantastic music and a fine performance by main lead Suman Ranganathan. Kasoor doesn´t disappoint, but is brought down by its screenplay in the second half and, sadly, Lisa Ray. Still, Kasoor is worth a viewing or two, and was definitely worth the wait.