Before I begin my take on Aashayein, I have a small confession - I have seen almost all of the 30+ movies (theatre/small screen) that John Abraham’s filmography boasts of. Not because I believe he is a terrific actor (which he is not!) or someone who’s acting prowess I admire (he has his good moments but has a long way to go). The truth is that I have a special soft corner for John (and Ritesh) because we share birthdates. Therefore, I am a JA loyalist and despite his average performances, will continue to be one. However, for the benefit of my 10-odd loyal readers, I am going to be completely unbiased and write an upright review of the film.
For director Nagesh Kukunoor, it has mostly been about realistic cinema. Stories you hear in neighborhoods, human tales you empathize with and news you read in dailies. Luckily, for him, audiences are in the day and age, caught between OTT popcorn productions and illogical condescending potboilers with nothing to fill the void. Films with a humor-laced message like Peepli, Udaan, are more acceptable today than ever. With Aashayein, does the engineer-turned-filmmaker manage to keep his art intact after Hyderabad Blues, Iqbal and Dor or does he fall prey to the commercial masala demands of the masses. Read further to find out.
Meet gambling addict (we hardly get to see his obsession) and chain smoker Rahul Sharma (John Abraham) and girlfriend Nafisa (Sonal Sehgal). One gambling win and a proposal later, Rahul slumps to the floor at a party amidst laughter and conversations. Diagnosis reveal that Rahul is suffering from lung cancer and has only few months to live. After a few mockery, rain sprinting and understandably piteous moments, Rahul decides to move into a hospice breaking all ties with Nafisa and the world in general.
In the hospice, Rahul meets a mixed bag of characters - Padma (Anaitha Nair), Madhu (Farida Jalal), Parthasarthi (Girish Karnad), Govinda (Ashwin Chitale) all having a common purpose among them - to make the most of their remaining days.
I am not being bias, but genuinely, John Abraham has put in probably the best/toughest show of his career. He is intense, distinguishes well between all his relationships, emotes and justifies the role largely to an extent that there are some scenes, wherein you forget John, the Bollywood star and only sympathize with Rahul. Undoubtedly, the bright star of the film is Anaitha, whose eccentric ways strike a lovable chord. Anaitha does an extraordinary act of the estranged cancer patient, a fine supporting act.
The idea is noble, the subject is right; the casting of the leads and more importantly the supporting acts is satisfactory. However, despite all this, the script falters in a major way influencing the entire outcome. The incorrect mix of art and commercial cinema is one of the key weaknesses. The filmmaker intends to put across many ideologies, but trying to fit everything in, he misses the key essence and lacks compassion.
For a film with a sensitive topic around the much-dreaded C-word, there are hardly any tear-jerking, hearts wrenching scenes. Emotions are over quicker than the credit roll and the story hardly manages to leave an impact.
Aashayein starts favorably, but post the first half; it collapses like a pack of cards, owing to directionless story and venturing into sub-plots hardly relevant to the narrative. Nagesh plays a solid part of trying to steer his messy storyline, but with an added highly amateurish ending, the film will hardly manage any hopes for itself.
Verdict: the only ‘Asha’ this film could hold is hopefully for John’s career, as the actor has managed to draw some fabulous scenes to his credit.
On second thoughts: most films these days are boasting of better performances from supporting casts rather than the leads. About time, Bollywood cashes in on these small actors rather than chasing big names.