You know when you look at 50s cinema, it seems so clean. The men, they seemed to be all gentlemen; they spoke courteously, seated women before themselves, asked questions politely. The women, they were all dainty ladies, tender, sniffing into their hankies, and suitably accompanying their men. Even the item numbers were so decent. The whole aura was one of gentility.
Thus one is taken aback to see a film like Khoya Khoya Chand which shows up the industry then, as it really was on the inside. Quite different apparently than what was portrayed on-screen. They were schemers, wheeler-dealers, the producers ranted about profits, and the casting couch was apparently over-used. It's a grimy place, where unsuspecting men and women fall prey to the vagaries of this world.
Khoya Khoya Chand is set amid the film industry of the 50s, and is a complicated love story. True, all love stories are, but one is rather used to seeing them on-screen simply told. And it's tragic. There's nascent love, and there are willing lovers; these circumstances, this world and its wants and expectations just won't let them be.
Nikhat (Soha Ali Khan) is a starlet, a dancer, who desires "acting" roles now. She is spotted by mega-star Prem Kumar (Rajat Kapoor) and he casts her as his leading lady, much to the chagrin of his current leading lady Ratanbala (Soniya Jehan). As clout dictates, he also expects other favors from Nikhat which she accedes to.
However Prem marries another (Dipannita Sharma) in keeping with his parents' wishes, and explains it as such to Nikhat. Nikhat is angered but must swallow her pride to remain in Prem's (a powerful man in the industry) good books. Even though Prem is now married, he expects Nikhat's company on the side, while she, in turn, is forming an attachment with tell-it-like-it-is budding written Zafar (Shiney Ahuja).
Prem Kumar's character reminded me of Raj Kumar. Rajat Kapur who plays the part, appears to be a wolf in sheep's clothing, with the calm assurance of a man who thinks the world will 'kow-tow' to him. And it does. Shiney plays Zaffar, son of a father with four wives. Unable to see his mother's condition due to his father's excesses, he moves to Bombay. Shiney presents a fine performances playing idealistic Zafar.
Vinay Pathak is Zafar's good friend Shyamal and he delivers a superb performance as expected. I will attribute the inconsistencies in his character to a flaw in the screenplay. The other actor worth mentioning is Soniya Jehan who plays Ratanbala. Quite a beauty, Ms. Jehan appears a suitably delicate damsel with claws, and fits the era. Sushmita Mukherjee appears as yesteryear actress Sharda, and Nikhat's mentor. Saurabh Shukla is effective as a loud-mouth, opportunistic producer.
It is hard, I think, to tell a story like this and still keep the viewer engrossed. Firstly because of all the details, the twists and turns in the story; they may not be major but influence the story nevertheless. Secondly, since such a film is based upon the mind machinations and it is important that each character be well-fleshed out, else sympathies could be wrongly swayed.
Sudhir Mishra does an outstanding job, because he takes this gut-wrenching story of lovers who can never seem to meet, and imbues it with passion, drama, and emotion to the point where we feel for all the characters, and especially Nikhat. Times may change, but people remain the same - really quite good, but essentially selfish. And therein lies the rub.
For all its quality and worthiness, KKC might be a hard commercial sell, for who has time for the subtleties of love, when modern-day love stories have appreciative audiences dancing to a Love Guru's tunes (Salman Khan's character in 'Partner')?