By Vidya Pradhan
An American on a steady diet of Hindi movies may be forgiven for thinking that most Indian men are called "Raj Malhotra" – a name that is popular in Bollywood these days in the way Vijay used to be a couple of decades ago.
Even the heroines have some pretty standard names – Pooja for the A-list and wannabe A-list, Priya for the low budget movies and Aditi for the offbeat ones. Kismat Connection tries very hard to be offbeat and quirky, though it does not seem very low budget, and is completely undone by pedestrian direction and a weak script.
At first glance, the story is not half bad. Our hero Raj has been getting badly knocked about by fate till he chances upon Priya, who turns out be his lucky charm(literally). That is pretty much it for the plot though, and the director's attempt to make a full length feature out of such thin gruel is as unsatisfying as it sounds.
The first big problem with the movie is its awful casting. Separately, both Shahid Kapoor and Vidya Balan are attractive and competent actors but they look glaringly mismatched together. When at one point in the movie she whispers, "I'm so proud of you" it is hard not to miss an elder-sister vibe. It doesn't help that she does look older than the baby faced Kapoor and the attempts to make her look younger by giving her a cool hair-do and happening clothes just fall flat. "She's dressed like 'Sandra from Bandra'," a friend remarked. In fact, as other sartorial disasters in Hey Baby and Lage Raho Munnabhai can vouch for,her Southie frame with curves and flesh is best suited for traditional Indian clothes.
The second is director Aziz Mirza's Shahrukh hangover. The superstar starred in the the last four movies Mirza directed and it is obvious that either consciously or not, the director has tried to mold young Shahid in Shahrukh's image( Shahrukh narrates the movie). The result is eerie, with scenes in which I could almost believe it was Shahrukh in the role; the same mannerisms, the same eye movement and the same dialog delivery. What an injustice to Shahid, who demonstrated in Jab We Met that he has the acting chops to carry a movie on his shoulders.
The third is lackluster direction of a script that is weak but could have been worse. This is Aziz's Mirza's comeback after a long hiatus from film-making and it shows – the slick cut-away shot that even second-tier directors have perfected is missing – the camera lingers too long on the actors' reactions after a joke or an emotional moment and unnecessarily prolongs the scene. Scenes involving Juhi Chawla as Haseena, a gypsy who acts as a fortune teller-cum-psychiatrist to the troubled Raj, are just plain tacky. Shahid breaks into song without warning, just so we can check out his bod( nice!) and dancing skills. Every shot is overdone, as if there was a need to fill up the time. Just crisply editing the movie would have given it an extra star.
Kismat Konnection is a sweet idea, badly executed. I watched it without any expectations, but still yawned my way to the end. The denouement is ridiculous, with the newly minted Raj spouting a speech on ethics and morality. You can almost hear Shahid's inner voice saying "What the heck am I doing in this movie?"
*ring Shahid Kapoor, Vidya Balan
Directed by Aziz Mirza
My rating: 1.5 stars out of 5.