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Producer: Indra Kumar & Ashok Thakeria
Director : Indra Kumar
*ing: Amir Khan, Manisha Koirala, Neeraj Vohra, Mushtaque Khan & Special Appearances by Sharmila Tagore, Anil Kapoor, Rani Mukherjee, Shama Gesawat, Deepti Bhatnagar and Dilip Tahil
Music: Sanjeev Darshan

Released on : July 09, 1999
Approximate Running Time:  3 hours, 10 minutes


Reviewed by: Mohammad Ali Ikram
ali@indolink.com


out of 

It is a pleasure to watch a talented director or actor hone his/her skills with each successive film.  Raja notwithstanding, Indra Kumar's oeuvre has progressed from entertaining but frivolous (Dil) to entertaining and briefly meaningful (Ishq).  Kumar is a melodrama master who has historically made films with his mind always on the box office.  Lucky for us, he himself adheres to the theme of his new film.  "Listen to your heart", he must have been telling himself during Mann's filming, because what he gives us, is near masterful in execution.  The movie is a delight for the discerning viewer.

The movie is an Indian adaptation of the Hollywood classic, An Affair To Remember, and the premise is simple.  Dev (Aamir Khan), a vagrant womanizer, refuses to settle down in life.  He has squandered all of his deceased parents' riches and is set to complete one final romantic escapade aboard a cruise ship from Singapore to Bombay.  You see, the smart cookie that his assistant (Neeraj Vohra) is, Dev's marriage has been arranged to the spolit daughter (Deepti Bhatnagar) of a wealthy tycoon.  Dev will compromise his waywardness for the moulah, but not before one last romp in the hay...  Or so he hopes.  Aboard the sailing vessel, Dev encounters Priya (Manisha Koirala), the first woman to ever light up his soul.  Priya may not initially be impressed, but there is a Divine force constantly pulling these opposing personalities together.  The couple finally gives in to their feelings for one another, but vow to only get together after six months, on Valentine's Day at the Gateway of India, having overcome two crucial impediments in their path to love.  Dev has to prove he can stand on his own two feet and Priya has to deal with her impending marriage to the man who had helped her lead more than just an impoverished orphan's life.

The basic premise is very simple, and frankly, we have seen most of the first half in other movies.  The reason Mann works so well pre-intermission is because of the novelty (and proceedings) of the boat cruise setting and flawless performances by our lead actors.  Aamir and Manisha bring life to their characters, a rarity for films, and by the interval, you will know and care for Dev and Priya as much as for yourself.  If you already did not know, Aamir Khan is a near institution for Hindi cinema.  Form proof, just compare the actor's multi-leveled portrayal of this playboy.  You will witness why Salman Khan may be a popular star, but Aamir is a talented thespian.  The success of an actor lies in his/her ability to make you care about his/her character inspite of the character's personality flaws.  Aamir has that ability, but unfortunately one cannot say the same (with as much confidence) for any one of Salman's countless womanizer performances the past two years.  Brawn is just no comparison for good old brains and talent.

Then, if there is respite for Manisha's innumerable fans of late, this flick is it.  We may not care about hits and flops, but it is painful to watch this acting virtuoso in the innumerable side roles she has been seen in of late.  Indra Kumar's decision to cast Manisha here, is a case of perfect casting, and she never lets him or the audience down.  This lady is truly the Meena Kumari of her generation.  It is great fun watching Manisha and Aamir's perfect chemistry opposite one another (after the vastly underrated Akele Hum Akele Tum).   The film's climax has both stars permanently molding a spot for themselves in Bollywood history, and it will have you shedding tears by the bucketful.

Of course the performances would not have been as unforgettable were it not for a competent director.  On the downside, Indra Kumar still needs to work on reducing the offensive and exaggerated caricatures he puts in his flicks.  It may be sinfully funny, but in film after film, Kumar makes jokes at the expense of dark-skinned, overweight and handicapped people.  The joke will sooner or later run thin, Mr Kumar.   You're lucky this mistake is forgivable this time.  The upsides of Mann are just too overpowering for the flaws.

Letting the audience delve into the psyche, emotions and feelings of a film's characters is a rare and difficult feat, even for the world's best directors.   Credit it to the original or adapted screenplay and dialogue, but Mann has got several poignant and unforgettable sequences.  From the visit to Dadimaa's home - even the white wig can't hide the beauty that Sharmila Tagore always was - all the way to Dev's final testament of true love, some scenes are bound to be etched in your mind for eternity.  And rightly so, Kumar has obviously put a lot of care into these sequences. 

The caressing cinematography, Manisha's simple but elegant look, and countless guest spots by pleasing screen stars make me want to rush out and see it all over again.  (Would someone please give the pretty and emotive Shama Gesawat, last seen in the dreadful Prem Aggan, a couple of lead roles in the future?  Mark my words, this simple stunner has the ability to shine as a great performer and star, if ever given the chance.) The well-designed music and choreography sequences also help punctuate the narrative, particularly the amazing dance sequence video and Manisha's physical "pull" in and out of her dreams during "Mera Mann Kyoon Tumhein Chahe".  Very novel and well done Ganesh Accharya.  It is nice to see that more of the newer brigade of choreographers, aside from Farah Khan, are trying to be different.

A forewarning that the film is very long.  It could use some editing pre-interval, but all said and done, I did not mind.  One can forgive Indra Kumar's self indulgence in trying to retain as many sequences as possible in his first true labour of love.  Mann is Indra Kumar's first movie, and hopefully not the last, for which he can be proud of himself.  (All the Rajas, Betas and Ishqs together cannot hold a candle to this one.)  All that modesty and self-criticism in your interviews can now be reduced Mr Kumar.  Pat yourself on the back, bask in the deserved success of this film, and show us another zabardast tale in another couple of years.  We are highly looking foward to it.

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