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Producer: Gordhan Tanwani
Director: Indra Kumar
*ing: Aamir Khan, Juhi Chawla, Ajay Devgan, Kajol, Sadashiv Amprapurkar, Dalip Tahil and Johnny Lever
Music: Anu Malik

Reviewed by: Mohammad Ali Ikram

8.5 out 10

Can a film with an old-as-the-hills story be redeemed by mesmerizing performances and engaging treatment? Indra Kumar's Ishq replies, "Of course it can." Like Mr. Kumar's previous efforts Dil, Beta and Raja, this flick too is very implausible. Yet I would lay a bet, that like the others, Ishq will also be very big at the box office.

Ishq scores over the earlier hits of Indra Kumar in its appeal to the intelligent audience. Why so? The film, as the director proudly admits, is unabashedly commercial; in true Indra Kumar style, it suffers from an overload of melodrama, slapstick comedy, and stereotyped, overweight and handicapped caricatures. On the other hand, there are also two colossal redeeming factors; a talented foursome of lead-actors-cum-stars, and a slowly maturing director who has at last delivered some memorable, cinematic moments.

The story is a melange of the poor guy/rich girl, poor girl/rich guy theme. Poverty-hating fathers play barriers, trying to rearrange the situational dynamics to rich girl/rich guy, poor girl/poor guy. The film starts off on an irritatingly high note, making one reach for the emergency Tylenol bottle. But as soon as the romantic foursome enters the scene, you relax, sit back and enjoy these great artistes excel like never before.

Kajol and Ajay (self-titled characters) are the quiet, intense, brooding lovers, while Raja and Madhoo (Aamir and Juhi) are the 'I will kill you before I love you' confrontational type. The characters are well-defined, and take full advantage of each actor's talents. If Aamir and Juhi excel at comedy in the first half, then Kajol and Ajay - I never knew he was so talented - steal most post-interval dramatics. Of course, both pairs also have an innate chemistry, and the team is co-operative, rather than competitive.

Indra Kumar will never apologize for wooing the audience with tried-and-tested formulas. Luckily, he possesses a latent desire to become more creative and sensitive in the future: Aamir and Kajol's 'sibling' sequences are novel, moving and quite simply, brilliant. Kumar acknowledges the importance of family in Indo-Pak culture, and makes two statements overlooked in all the recently unending, Bollywood love-triangles. First, platonic relationships do exist between individuals of the opposite sex. And second, family relationships are not always based solely on blood. Human beings without 'families' need emotional support also.

The song and dance sequences are above average. (Only "Humko Tumse Pyar Hai" is vulgar and offensive. I though Aamir Khan said he would not participate in the current bump and grind trend.) Like the songs of Raja, "Mr Lova Lova", "Neend Churayee Meri" and "Ishq Hai Ishq Hai" are each worth the price of admission. (Remember, however that Raja was a really bad movie.) Baba Azmi's cinematography and Saroj Khan's choreography make "Mr Lova Lova" one of the best dance routines of 1997.

Ishq is a simple film meant for children, the young-at-heart, and people wanting to see great actors at work. It proves that the story need not be new or novel, to make a movie really good. Ignore the cliches because you will love the performances of Aamir, Juhi, Kajol and Ajay. I feel that this foursome has as much, if not more, talent than the overhyped stars of yesteryears. Anyone willing to repeat this team in another movie? Just give them interesting characters; the story is optional.

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Mr. & Mrs. Khiladi

Producers: Keshu Ramsay
Director: David Dhawan
*ing: Akshay Kumar, Juhi Chawla, Kadar Khan, Satish Kaushik, Paresh Rawal, Upasna Singh, Himani Shivpuri, Gulshan Grover, and a special appearance by Johnny Lever
Music : Anu Malik

Reviewed by: Mohammad Ali Ikram

Rating 6.5 out of 10

David Dhawan is presented an interesting predicament as director of Mr. & Mrs. Khiladi.  Given Akshay Kumar's currently sagging box office status, he must resurrect the actor with a new comedic avatar while not omitting the Action Jackson antics which audiences expect from the 'Khiladi' movie series.  The task is not as easy as one would think.

The story offered opportunities for the movie to be a cash cow at the box office.  Akshay Kumar, an apparently over-educated but unemployed youth, keenly awaits the passage of each day as his Pandit Mama (Satish Kaushik) has predicted he will become King within a year's time.  Till then our hero plans to lead an aimless and pitiful life with his widowed mother and 'desperate to marry' sister.  Lucky for Mr. Khiladi that Shalu (Juhi Chawla), a rich and spoilt child of a multimillionaire (Kadar Khan), wants to marry him.  Shalu forcibly convinces Daddy dearest to wed her to Mr. Khiladi and so they become Mr. & Mrs. Khiladi.  The hitch is that Daddy is not at all impressed with his overconfident, pain-in-the-butt, 'ghar jamai' so the latter must spend the rest of the movie discovering the meaning of hard work.  And the motivation for Mr. Khiladi's efforts is the 'suhaag raat' with his wife, which he has been denied.

Akshay and Juhi make a very cute couple, but Mrs. Khiladi can easily act circles around her filmi spouse.  (I feel that a female-oriented romance would be a better vehicle in which to present the twosome together in the future.)  Juhi's comedic timing (as well as her look in the movie) is near perfection, whereas Akshay occasionally appears uncomfortable with the comedy film set-up.  He tries to compensate by yelling and whining, but that will never make him a Govinda. (To be fair, Akshay's character is also too stupid for the audience's support.  One wonders how this well-educated man could become such a moronic couch potato.)  Kadar Khan's character displays some dichotomy.  On one hand the man is mega-rich, but he dresses like the heroes of David Dhawan's earlier movies.  Daddy is also a strict authoritarian but he turns to mush when dealing with his daughter.  Paresh Rawal as Shalu's Mamu, is wasted in the annoying role of a failed Doordarshan compeer who provides a synopsis of the happenings every five minutes.

David Dhawan's directorial capabilities are also not at their peak compared to his other movies.  The reason for this semi-disappointment may be the 'Khiladi' style action requirement thrust upon David by Akshay's image.  David does a great job in directing a parody of Khiladiyon Ka Khiladi's wrestling scenes by using a humorous comic slant and a sumo wrestler (Mr. & Mrs... is also a far better flick than the abysmal, aforementioned K-K-K.)  Plus, the Juhi-Kadar new car sequence is also wonderful, but much of the remaining movie lacks proper comedic pacing.

I wonder if another problem lies in the lack of crisp editing and a mediocre background score.  Judwaa, Aankhen and Hero No.1 all had very slick presentations, but that is not the case with Mr. & Mrs. Khiladi.  The cinematography is decent and the dances/songs are fine, but each successive scene is rarely linked neatly together.  (By the way, Torontonians and other Ontarians will have a whale of a time identifying local sites in the songs...  though they are also a bit distracting.)

Mr. & Mrs. Khiladi is generally a time-filler.  The story and a few comedy sequences are fine, but the film needs a more comedic, less idiotic, male protagonist and some technical rework.  As is, some individuals may like it, but not if they have seen David Dhawan's other, more superlative comedies.

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