We saw a perfect movie last night – Farhan Akhtar’s second directorial venture, Lakshya. Now before folks start coming up with the numerous flaws they see in the film, let me clarify, when I say perfect, I mean it in the sense that it is the perfect example of my notions of a great movie. There! Does that sound better now?
I had found Farhan Akhtar’s first venture, Dil Chahta Hai, near perfect too. But Lakshya, with its grander canvas and more relevant coming-of-age theme, seems a step forward from DCH where the boys stay boys all through the movie. That kind of life might seem fun in the movies and it does make for some magical moments on-screen, but that’s not what real life is all about, is it? Karan, the protagonist of Lakshya, who initially seemed merely a carry forward of Akash and Sameer of DCH finally grows up in Lakshya and how!
One look at the credits and the mystery was explained. While both DCH and Lakshya showcase Farhan’s fresh approach and fine directorial sensibilities, DCH is written by the (relatively) young director while Lakshya is penned by his father, the master story-teller Javed Akhtar himself. Never mind all the speculation about who was the better writer among the Salim-Javed duo, to my mind Lakshya ranks right up there with Sholay, Deewar and their other classics.
The movie begins with Lieutenant Karan Shergill (a gasp-oh-so-handsome Hrithik Roshan in his crew cut, smart army uniform and ramrod straight bearing) reporting for his first posting at an army camp in the pristine mountains of Ladakh. (I read a review somewhere which credited a certain German gentleman with the beautiful cinematography and seemed to suggest that explained it all. Is this yet another example of our natural respect for anything ‘foreign’, or is it just my ignorance that’s being shown up here?)
A photograph of a well-known news anchor, Romi Dutta (Preity Zinta in a bizarre Burkha Dutt take), pops out of the young Lieutenant’s wallet and Karan seems visibly ill-at-ease with the good-natured ribbing that follows. Cut to the flashback, Karan, in his previous spoilt brat avatar is being cajoled to wake up by the family servant with a glass of juice in his hand. His first words on awakening? ‘Ramsingh, TV on kar de yaar!’ Karan has no idea of what he wants out of life, he scoots off when Romi’s father starts a serious monologue on ‘life’. Hilariously, he repeats the same monologue word-to-word (Ghaas kaatne wala bano, magar achchi ghaas kato!) when his own dad questions him on his plans.
The transformation from the confused but lovable brat to the idealistic and committed army officer, inspired by his lady love, Romi, abandoning him with the admonition, ‘Jo khud ki izzat nahi kar sakta, woh meri kya izzat rakhega? Tumhare jeevan mein lakshya ki kami hai!’, is the highlight of the movie. I can’t think of a single contemporary actor, barring perhaps Aamir Khan (But wouldn’t he look too old?), who could have done justice to this incredible transformation as Hrithik Roshan has.
Post-interval, the action shifts to the Kargil war. The Pakistanis have transgressed into Indian territory and Karan finally finds the ‘lakshya’ (goal) that he is looking for – a strategic mountain peak captured by the Pakistanis from where they are able to target the Ladakh-Kashmir highway at will. The Indian army is determined to recapture the peak at all costs and after several unsuccessful attempts, Karan decides to make it his personal goal, promising his commanding officer (Amitabh Bachchan in one of his inexplicable but now-routine bit roles), ‘Ya toh hum jeet jayenge ya fir mein wapas nahi aoonga!’
One of the reviews I read said something like, watch Lakshya as a sensitive portrayal of a coming-of-age story or a realistic depiction of a war movie, both ways you’ll find it paisa-vasool. How true! The war drama and Pakistan-bashing is confined to the bare minimum, the focus being on clever strategies rather than brawn and war rhetoric. The incredible rock climbing scene and the final scene where Karan’s commanding officer spots him jubilantly flying the Indian flag atop the much-sought-after peak are spine-tingling and a must-watch for any patriotic Indian.
There is a rousing war song, but it is thankfully used to establish the camaraderie and spirit of the soldiers without any weeping wives and girlfriends in the background. In fact, the entire stirring soundtrack adds immensely to the emotional quotient of the narrative. Barring Kitni Baatein, which is a beautiful track but still annoys since it slows down the movie just prior to the climax, the rest of the songs are nicely used to move the story forward.
The romance is a subtle but sensitive parallel track that never attempts to hijack the main storyline. It is the weakest link of the movie though. I couldn’t sympathize with Romi’s character as I did with Karan’s, despite all her activism and obvious strength of character. There was something forced about her that I’m not able to put a finger upon. (I found her mother’s character fascinating though, Lilette Dubey in the role of a ‘Darling, I am going to India International’ kind of socialite-cum-activist Delhi mum.)
The Burkha Dutt angle, which was obviously a ploy to unite the lovers against the backdrop of the war, seemed slightly incongruous, but was an interesting attempt nevertheless. Special mention must go to Boman Irani’s gut-wrenching portrayal of Karan’s father, the hard-working no-nonsense dad who is so wrapped up in creating a comfortable home for his family that he loses out on an emotional bond with them. Before Karan embarks on his final suicidal mission, he calls up his father to say, ‘I love you’, and both father and son break down in one of the most emotional scenes of the entire movie.
Lakshya is a fine attempt at sensitive story-telling, it tells a story relevant to the youth of our nation and gives them a far better message than the more acclaimed Rang De Basanti. (It reminds me of another beautiful movie of its genre, Vijeta.) I know this review comes a good three years after the movie’s release, but if you haven’t watched it yet, I’d suggest you don’t give this wonderful movie a miss! To all those who have seen it but didn’t like it as much, why not try an encore? I had watched it before too and let me confess I liked it much better on second viewing. As for the rest, welcome to the Lakshya fan club!