Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Do men deserve women?: Amrita Rao in Love U...Mr. Kalakaar!

Amrita Rao in Love U...Mr. Kalakaar!

Love U...Mr. Kalakaar! (Love U...Mr. Artist!, 2011; written and directed by S. Manasvi) is the latest Amrita Rao film to ask the question: are men deserving of women?

In Ishq Vishk (Love and all that, 2003), Rajiv (Shahid Kapoor) must finally realize that his pursuit of popularity (and a popular girlfriend with whom he has little in common) is empty. To win back his childhood sweetheart Payal (Rao), whose true love he has spurned, he has to muster the courage to make a huge and public apology/confession to her. In Main Hoon Na (I'm here now, 2004), Laxman (Zayed Khan) isn't aware that his tomboyish college buddy Sanjana (Rao) is in love with him. Like Rajiv, Laxman must understand the shallowness of his pursuit of girlfriends for their looks, and recognize Sajana's devotion and inner beauty (though her outer makeover from jeans and t-shirts to salwar kameez doesn't hurt).

And in Vivah (Marriage, 2006), on the eve of her marriage to Prem (Shahid Kapoor), Poonam (Rao) is terribly burned while rescuing her sister from a raging house fire. Prem, hearing of the disaster, rushes to the hospital. In an inversion of the Ram-Sita story, the trial by fire becomes a test of Prem's worthiness of Poonam:


https://youtu.be/cgJ3c1OwyA0?t=4m56s
(Warning: if you follow this link rather than viewing the embedded video,
you may want to stop watching at 9:00 to avoid a mild spoiler)

Love U...Mr. Kalakaar! makes literal the test of the man's worthiness, with the twist that instead of proving himself to his partner, he must also prove himself to her father. Successful industrialist Deshraj Diwan (Ram Kapoor) values one quality above all others:

Discipline is the most important

But his daughter Ritu (Rao) falls for a man who is her father's opposite: the unbusinesslike artist Sahil (Tusshar Kapoor). On a couples trek she urges him to embrace the moment and open his heart to her in "Bhoore Bhoore Badal" (Gathering clouds):


The music is by Sandesh Sandilya, with lyrics by Manoj Muntashir; the playback singers are Shreya Ghoshal and Kunal Ganjawala.

This moment in the story, where Ritu and Sahil are tentatively reaching out to one another, each clearly attracted but unsure of the other's feelings, is one of the best parts of the film. Not coincidentally, it is told largely from Ritu's perspective, and draws on Rao's ability to make her character immediately sympathetic.

One thing I noticed in trying to take screencaps of the film is that it is hard to catch Rao holding a fixed expression. "Bhoore Bhoore Badal" is a perfect example: Rao doesn't pose for the camera; instead she fully inhabits her character, and at every moment her face is expressive of the mix of emotions Ritu is feeling. Rao's acting is very natural; she is animated without overemoting. This ability to portray small, fleeting emotions as well as large ones is one of the qualities that makes her so appealing as an actress.

The growing love between Sahil and Ritu does not make her father a happy man. He is worried that Sahil will be a failure:

An artist ends up selling himself but is unable to sell his art

He sets Sahil a trial: he will be given three months as managing director of Diwan Enterprises. If at the end of that time the company shows a greater than typical profit, Sahil can marry Ritu; if he fails, he will be banished from her life. (Never mind the unlikelihood that the "Businessman of the Decade" would endanger his 1000-employee firm in this way, or that either Sahil or Ritu would agree to this unfair arrangement.)

As if the trial weren't difficult enough, Mr. Diwan adds three other hurdles. He provides Sahil with a secretary, Charu (Snigdha Akolkar), who has been instructed to flaunt her ample charms:

Charu offering Sahil a pen

He also separates the lovers by sending Ritu away for a month to visit her grandfather (Prem Chopra). And he asks Ritu's old friend Aman (Prashant Ranyal), who clearly still carries a torch for her, to keep her company.

While these rather obvious machinations don't work, after just one month Sahil is failing his test. Unwilling to place the livelihoods of the employees at further risk, and despairing of his ability to rise to the challenge, he is ready to resign and sacrifice his love. Only Ritu's last-minute return saves Sahil, and the couple—at least temporarily.

Sahil is given the task of selecting three employees from an underperforming unit to be fired. Not only is this a nearly impossible choice for the sensitive Sahil, it is Diwali, and he can't bring himself to lay off workers in the middle of the holidays.

It is also Ritu's birthday. In "Tera Intezaar" (I've been waiting for you) Aman straps on his old guitar and confesses his feelings for Ritu. "I've been waiting for you all along," he sings. "I've been yearning for you...let me fill your life with happiness."

While on the surface "Tera Intezaar" is a somewhat generic Latin-flavored disco number, it is staged by director Manasvi as its own mini-drama. Ritu—concerned by Sahil's absence and troubled by Aman's overtures, which obviously have her father's approval—leaves the party and calls Sahil. Charu answers instead. At first she tries to convince Ritu that she and Sahil are "working late," but she soon confesses that they really are working late: Sahil is trying to negotiate a solution that will allow all of the workers to be retained but still meet the budget. On hearing this news Ritu returns beaming to the party and dances with Aman. When she sings about yearning for her lover's passionate embrace, Aman imagines that she is addressing him—but she is thinking only of Sahil:



The playback singers are Mohit Chauhan and Shivangi Kashyap. Even with its somewhat awkward choreography, this number shows off Rao's grace and precision as a dancer—already abundantly evident in Main Hoon Na's near-continuous-take "Chale Jaise Hawaien" and "Tumse Milke"—not to mention her ability to rock a vintage hairstyle.

As is probably apparent by now, Rao is by far the best reason to watch Love U...Mr. Kalakaar!. Her Ritu is smart, steadfast, and good-hearted. Sahil should clearly never be allowed to make a major financial decision—at least, not one affecting anyone else—but Ritu's openness, empathy and sound judgment provide Sahil with much-needed support. And it is her support and wise guidance that gives him the courage to stand up to her father and do his best to succeed, on his own terms. Perhaps in the end Sahil has to prove that he is deserving of Ritu's love not only to her father, but to himself.

But like its hero the movie faces three hurdles, and it stumbles at each one. The first is the implausibility of the premise (although despite this Rao still manages to make us care about the fate of these characters). The second is Sandilya's largely unmemorable music, "Bhoore Bhoore Badal" excepted. But the final (and for some viewers, no doubt fatal) issue is Tusshar Kapoor's stolidity as Sahil. It's hard to believe that this guy is a passionate artist, or passionate anything. Rao could generate chemistry with a brick wall, but it's too bad Sahil couldn't have been played by a more expressive actor such as her Ishq Vishk and Vivah co-star Shahid Kapoor. Sahil may ultimately show that he is worthy of Ritu, but on the evidence of Love U...Mr. Kalakaar! Tusshar Kapoor still has work to do to show that he deserves the role of leading man.

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