By: Samar Khan
There has been a prevailing belief that any film starring Katrina Kaif, by default, is guaranteed to lack what one would term “great” acting. Normally, this adage holds true; in the case of the adaption of Charles Dickens “Great Expectations” for Bollywood audiences, Fitoor, Kaif’s meagre acting skills are carried by the efforts put forth by her fellow co-stars and the team crafting the gorgeous tale of love transcending social divides.
Here I shall be providing a quick synopsis, for all of those people that are unfamiliar with Charles Dickens’ “Great Expectations” and wondering how Bollywood would do it. This is a love story, through and through, so do not go in expecting to be wowed by amazing set-pieces or Salman Khan taking his shirt off (not that gratuitous shirtless scenes do not exist within). Rather, this is a love story between a poor Kashmiri boy, Noor, and the ridiculously beautiful daughter of a wealthy Kashmiri widower, Firdaus. The characters will be discussed in more detail below but for now, let us continue with the story and where it stumbled.
When I mentioned that this was a “love story through and through,” that wasn’t entirely true. There was the requisite “tough mother of girl” and “boy must prove himself” elements included that neither over nor underwhelmed. For some reason, the script called for the addition of a Kashmiri political element that was hardly integral to the story, serving to add nothing but some filler scenes and bring in some unnecessary scenes regarding the Kashmir-Pakistan-India debate that has been raging on for decades. Suffice it to say, what should have been a simple story ended up being burdened by far too many elements that were wholly unnecessary and that detracted from the entire experience. Whereas films such as Wazir or Haider found ways to make the Kashmiri political element actually relevant to the story, Fitoor struggled and would have failed entirely were it not for some stellar performances and technical work that complemented it.
Moving on to the saving grace of the film, we start with the woman that played the role of the aforementioned widow, the ever-sublime Tabu, who shines once again in a mother type role. In the last year, she has provided audiences with absolutely wonderful performances in the acclaim Hamlet adaptation, Haider, and a personal favourite of mine in 2015, Drishyam. So, going in, of course expectations would be high for the veteran actress but, as has become the norm, she shines and is easily the best part of Fitoor, which is not faint praise as the film had some outstanding segments.
Aditya Roy Kapoor has started to earn some fans following his fantastic efforts put forth in Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani and the heartwrenching Aashiqui 2, the latter of which cemented him as an upcoming talent with actual acting talent and not one merely coasting by due to nepotism. He brings to life the portrayal of a love-struck young man, who sees his childhood crush move on to better things and waits years before finally receiving a chance to prove himself to her. Despite some stilted dialogue (which was generally consistent but had some serious flaws at times throughout the film), he brought a real human element to his character and embodied a forlorn, heartbroken man living beyond his means very well. In what has to be a running gag now after all of his major films have consisted of this, his drinking scenes showcase his true range as an actor, as he can go from shy lover in one minute to a raging alcoholic in the next. For all of you ladies, he has numerous shirtless scenes throughout and our audience had quite a few audible swoons whenever he was shirtless, so plan accordingly.
Rounding out the big three was the the other half of our love story, Firdaus, portrayed by Kaif. Her acting was surprisingly consistent for once; don’t get me wrong, she was outshone in multiple scenes by the people she was sharing the screen with but still managed to make us believe in the moral issues pertaining to her character. Her scenes and dialogue were kept to a relative minimum, especially in comparison to Kapoor, and that may have played a role in her success in the film, as it provided fewer opportunities for her acting deficiencies to be exposed. All things considered, she wasn’t great nor was she bad, which is more than we can for many of the efforts in her filmography to date.
The supporting cast may contain some spoilers so beware as you read ahead. The trailers do not showcase this but Ajay Devgn has a role – a very small role- in the film that was a complete waste of time. A man with the talents of Devgn was completely misused here, as he wasn’t given sufficient time or proper scripting to make an impact. He’s introduced early on, disappears for nearly 2 hours and then reappears for a totally random 5-minute scene that serves as a mere plot device. Inexcusable on the part of the writing team, as Devgn is one of those few actors that can elevate a film by his mere presence alone.
Being a Bollywood love story, Fitoor contained a rather large soundtrack that was better than many recent films. While there were no standout chartbusters or melodious songs that would make one fall in love by just hearing them, it was consistent throughout as songs such as “Tere Liye” and the titular “Fitoor” were perfectly melodious and matched the scenes on screen.
In terms of the background score, the film was also fairly consistent in that it avoided overwhelming audiences at any point but also failed to resonate and create an impact at all. Some scenes that could have benefited from ambient sound contained serene- yet unnecessary- tunes that minimized the impact of what was going on whilst other scenes were justtttttttt right with the proper placement of a soulful guitar tune or ominous pangs. In all, the soundtrack can be summed as being perfectly competent and having done its job.
Disregarding the odd waste of acting talent for a moment, the film’s cinematography deserves a special mention. Following in the footsteps of Bajrangi Bhaijaan and the aforementioned duo of Haider and Wazir, which portrayed Kashmir as an idyllic and beautifully snowcapped region, Fitoor does the same and in some respects manages to outdo its counterparts. Some of the outdoor scenes of the roadside and houses are absolutely magnificent, with certain water based scenes in the midst of light snowfall some of the most gorgeous images one will see on cinema screens nearly all year. The use of appropriate colours to highlight character moods and changes, from Katrina Kaif’s hair going from radiant and red to gloomy and tied down when her character experiences a major life change, were fantastic editing decisions that must be complimented. The difference in colour palette in the majority of scenes was perfectly executed, as it made it easy to distinguish between the tone of the scenes and the body language and internal battles of the characters.
After all of this, the film’s positives outweigh the negatives. The acting by the cast was consistent across the board (at the very least) and the soundtrack and cinematography were solid complements to that acting. Despite the weakness in parts of the script and the complete waste of Ajay Devgn (insert sad face here), the film manages to exceed expectations. The film is not a “must-see” but is something that we at The Film Lawyers have no hesitation in recommending to our readers.
We here at The Film Lawyers have decided to grace the film, Fitoor, with a grade of C+ (6.7/10).