Producer: Gordhan Tanwani
Director: Indra Kumar
*ing: Aamir Khan, Juhi Chawla, Ajay Devgan, Kajol, Sadashiv Amprapurkar, Dalip Tahil and Johnny Lever
Music: Anu Malik

Reviewed by: Mohammad Ali Ikram

out of 

Can a film with an old-as-the-hills story be redeemed by mesmerizing performances and engaging treatment? Indra Kumar's Ishq replies, "Of course it can." Like Mr. Kumar's previous efforts Dil, Beta and Raja, this flick too is very implausible. Yet I would lay a bet, that like the others, Ishq will also be very big at the box office.

Ishq scores over the earlier hits of Indra Kumar in its appeal to the intelligent audience. Why so? The film, as the director proudly admits, is unabashedly commercial; in true Indra Kumar style, it suffers from an overload of melodrama, slapstick comedy, and stereotyped, overweight and handicapped caricatures. On the other hand, there are also two colossal redeeming factors; a talented foursome of lead-actors-cum-stars, and a slowly maturing director who has at last delivered some memorable, cinematic moments.

The story is a melange of the poor guy/rich girl, poor girl/rich guy theme. Poverty-hating fathers play barriers, trying to rearrange the situational dynamics to rich girl/rich guy, poor girl/poor guy. The film starts off on an irritatingly high note, making one reach for the emergency Tylenol bottle. But as soon as the romantic foursome enters the scene, you relax, sit back and enjoy these great artistes excel like never before.

Kajol and Ajay (self-titled characters) are the quiet, intense, brooding lovers, while Raja and Madhoo (Aamir and Juhi) are the 'I will kill you before I love you' confrontational type. The characters are well-defined, and take full advantage of each actor's talents. If Aamir and Juhi excel at comedy in the first half, then Kajol and Ajay - I never knew he was so talented - steal most post-interval dramatics. Of course, both pairs also have an innate chemistry, and the team is co-operative, rather than competitive.

Indra Kumar will never apologize for wooing the audience with tried-and-tested formulas. Luckily, he possesses a latent desire to become more creative and sensitive in the future: Aamir and Kajol's 'sibling' sequences are novel, moving and quite simply, brilliant. Kumar acknowledges the importance of family in Indo-Pak culture, and makes two statements overlooked in all the recently unending, Bollywood love-triangles. First, platonic relationships do exist between individuals of the opposite sex. And second, family relationships are not always based solely on blood. Human beings without 'families' need emotional support also.

The song and dance sequences are above average. (Only "Humko Tumse Pyar Hai" is vulgar and offensive. I though Aamir Khan said he would not participate in the current bump and grind trend.) Like the songs of Raja, "Mr Lova Lova", "Neend Churayee Meri" and "Ishq Hai Ishq Hai" are each worth the price of admission. (Remember, however that Raja was a really bad movie.) Baba Azmi's cinematography and Saroj Khan's choreography make "Mr Lova Lova" one of the best dance routines of 1997.

Ishq is a simple film meant for children, the young-at-heart, and people wanting to see great actors at work. It proves that the story need not be new or novel, to make a movie really good. Ignore the cliches because you will love the performances of Aamir, Juhi, Kajol and Ajay. I feel that this foursome has as much, if not more, talent than the overhyped stars of yesteryears. Anyone willing to repeat this team in another movie? Just give them interesting characters; the story is optional.

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