Producer & Director : J.P. Dutta
Abhishek Bachchan, Kareena Kapoor, Jackie Shroff, Sunil Shetty, Kulbhushan Kharbanda, Anupam Kher
Anu Malik

Released on : June 30, 2000

Reviewed by: Anish Khanna

out of 
I respect J.P. Dutta. I really do. But I can't help but say that I was slightly disappointed with his latest - "Refugee". Now, don't get me wrong - "Refugee" is definitely a cut above the normal Indian fair, but saying that it is a perfect film couldn't be farther from the truth.

The first half is absolutely beautiful. The story unfolds on some immaculately gorgeous locales (mainly Bhuj) and we learn of the struggle of Bangladeshi Muslims to find a nation they can call they own. One such family includes Naazneen (Kareena Kapoor), her grandmother and parents. They pay off the Indian Jaan Mohammed (Anupam Kher) who has an adopted, orphaned son - the castless, creedless free spirit Refugee (Abhishek Bachchan). Refugee makes a living smuggling refugees, weapons, terrorists, and even Lata Mangeshkar cassettes (we must assume) across the border and does the same for Naazneen's family. Love blossoms on the journey between Refugee and Naazneen and he constantly returns to Pakistan to be reunited with his love. Trouble arises when Pakistani Border Ranger Mohammed Ashraf (Sunil Shetty) - who is duped by the family into believing that they are Pakistani by birth - desires Naazneen's hand in marriage.

In the second half, the movie just drags. The movie wanders into a terrorism subplot with some war scenes that seem like leftover cuts of "Border" (and bad ones at that). Of course - throughout the entire movie - all smuggling of arms, bombs, and terrorists are only one way (Pakistan to India) since - of course - we Indians never resort to such tactics or schemes. Yes, I am being sarcastic, and yes - I expected J.P. Dutta to be at least a little more objective in his presentation of the Indo-Pak conflict. Furthermore - the transition of Refugee into an officer by Border Security Officer Raghubir Singh (Jackie Shroff) seems rushed. Even the subplot of Mohammed Ashraf's friend creating problems between Naazneen and Ashraf merely serves in sidetracking the audience. The ending itself is nothing short of corny. (Did I not see something similar in "Henna"?)

The biggest redeeming factor of this film is its performances. One thing is for sure - two stars are born - Kareena Kapoor and Abhishek Bachchan. Abhishek easily recalls the intensity of his father with a bit of Ajay Devgan - but mostly is his own original performer. Don't bother to compare him to Hrithik, Afthab or anybody else in his generation. His strengths lie in his intense eyes and inherited baritone. Kareena Kapoor is grace personified. The only similarity with her sister Karisma lies in their voices. Otherwise, her perfectly chiselled features and expressive face translate beautifully on screen and she demonstrates some incredible acting skills. The chemistry between the two lead stars is excellent, but the drawback they share is that they each have two left feet. "Taal Se Jab" turns out to be a comic show with their lack of movement ability. Still - Bollywood has two new gems.

Other commendable performances come from Kulbhushan Karbhanda (as Naazneen's father), Anupam Kher, Jackie and Sunil, and Reena Roy (as Amna - Refugee's stepmom). Music by Anu Malik is absolutely superb. The script also offers some thought-provoking poetry and dialogue - particularly in the scenes between Jackie and Sunil. "Can't we all just get along?", they ask.

Overall - this is still a must-see film. I liked the message of it - but I have a challenge for any director. Please - for once - make an unbiased, truly, truly, truly unbiased film about Indo-Pak relations. Yes, it would be great to live in "Insaniyatstaan" or whatever - but would a film that at times is less-than-subtly-biased be made in such a fictitious land? Doubt it... But until then - "Refugee" might be the closest we can get..