Movie Review: Fitoor

February 12, 2016

(Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters)

For a film supposedly based on Charles Dickens‘ “Great Expectations“, director Abhishek Kapoor seems to have started reading the book before abandoning it halfway. Kapoor’s adaptation begins with the story of Pip, Estella and Miss Havisham, but tapers into a narrative about unrequited love, complete with a Bollywood ending.

FitoorTo Kapoor’s credit, his vision is ambitious and “Fitoor” (Obsession) has the look of a brooding, sweeping romance that transcends time and, at times, the realities of the era in which it is based.

Kashmir replaces the marshlands, and Hazrat Begum (Tabu) is the Miss Havisham of this tale. Pip is Noor Nizami, a wisp of a boy who lives with his sister and her husband and paints in his spare time. Katrina Kaif is Firdaus, the ice maiden who thaws and freezes again depending on circumstances.

Noor grows up adoring Firdaus, in spite of the Begum’s many attempts to play with his emotions and scuttle young love. He spends his days pining for her, until an unknown benefactor sponsors him for an art program that will propel him into Delhi’s hallowed art circles and, more importantly, into the same social circles that Firdaus inhabits.

But even that doesn’t seem to move Firdaus, who is unable to muster up the courage to escape from the Begum’s all-encompassing presence. Meanwhile, Noor goes from besotted to obsessed with Firdaus, almost channeling the hero of another classic English novel – the notorious Heathcliff. Actor Aditya Roy Kapoor broods, sulks and rants, and sometimes it is difficult to tell one from the other.

The director and co-writer Supratik Sen reduce Magwitch’s role (the benefactor in Great Expectations) to a two-scene cameo and dilute a lot of the book’s other underlying themes, including Pip’ attitude to his sudden fortune. What “Fitoor” does focus on is the individual hand of the Begum, dictating all that Noor and Firdaus do, just as Miss Havisham haunts Pip and Estella.

FitoorAnd fittingly, it is Tabu who steers this film with a supremely confident performance, holding you captive right till the end. “Kya dil toota hai tumhara” (How your heart has broken), she tells Noor in what is one of the film’s finest lines, as she surveys what is supposed to be his best artwork. And just like that, Noor goes from a confident artist to a pining lover who will do anything to get Firdaus back.

The other star of “Fitoor” is cinematographer Anay Goswamy, whose gorgeous frames capture the desolate snowy landscape of Kashmir and the ice-cold interiors of Delhi’s art galleries with equal panache. It is Goswamy’s frames that lend “Fitoor” its grandeur and scale.

Thank God for these two, because “Fitoor” is saddled with two of Bollywood’s most limited actors. They try to come out of their comfort zone and play their parts, but fail miserably. Kaif looks ethereal, but is one-toned and static in most of her scenes. Kapoor as Noor is equally awkward, often overdoing the emotional scenes. Together, Noor and Firdaus do not have the power to endear you to their romance, and it is largely because of them that “Fitoor” feels hollow and superficial.

If only the director had got his main leads right, perhaps this would have been a different film.

(Editing by Tony Tharakan; Follow Shilpa on Twitter at @shilpajay and Tony at@TonyTharakan. This article is website-exclusive and cannot be reproduced without permission)

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