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NEHA'S SISKIYAAN FAILS
NEHA'S SISKIYAAN FAILS

By Satyajit - Eye TV India Bureau

Critic's I-view

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Neha Dhupia's latest move of transforming from sex symbol to sensible theatrical presence takes its first plunge in Ashwini Chaudhry's 'Siskiyaan'. 'Siskiyaan' means crying whimpers from the affected or the destitute with painful memories of the past. Neha's journey into filmdom started off with dare bare looks in 'Qayamat' followed by 'Julie', 'Sheesha' and 'Kya Kool Hai Hum'. This movie brings out her new image makeover as she plays sad and morbid character of Ayesha Sheikh in a psychological thriller. There have been many instances when more than one film has hit the marquee with similar storyline and theme. This month has been an extravagance for the debutante directors as eight new directors have cast a spell on box office. Debutante director Kanika Verma stole limelight with her critically acclaimed 'Dansh'.

The film has been an inspiration lift from Roman Polanski's 'Death and the Maiden'. Surprisingly, 'Siskiyaan' is another inspirational from the same foreign flick. The first question arises if the audiences can digest two films with similar script within a month. It will also be surprising if such a film turns out to be a commercial success as such themes have been alien to Indian cinema and audiences. There has been cloudburst of small budget films this season as four films have hit box office this week. Ironically, another film 'Maine Gandhi Ko Nahin Maara' comes out with characterization of a mentally challenged protagonist played by Anupam Kher with indifferent treatment. Do we need socially relevant psychological thriller or this is another indifferent experimentation? It needs debate as the Gandhian philosophy and burning political issues have been synchronized into the format of modern cinema.

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There have been instances in the past where Hollywood films have inspired Bollywood directors resulting in two or more films with similar script and storyline in a short span of time. Films like 'Murder' and 'Hawas' ('Unfaithful'), 'Agnisakshi' and 'Darrar' ('Sleeping with the enemy'), 'Aitraaz' and 'Chetna' ('Disclosure') have been the examples . 'Siskiyaan' gets its body and soul from Hollywood hit 'Death and the Maiden' (1994). It was based on traumatizing experience of a mentally tormented female who craves for justice and revenge. Sigourney Weaver, Ben Kingsley and Stuart Wilson played the characters of man, wife and suspected tormentor in this Hollywood film. It got rehashed initially by debutante director Kanika Verma in 'Dansh' and now by Ashwini Chaudhry in 'Siskiyaan'. It is reported that Mahesh Bhatt's 'Kalyug' has similarity with Harry Baweja's 'Teesri Aankh'. The release of these films will decide their creative fidelity to the masses and classes.

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Ashwini Chaudhry directed his first film 'Dhoop' which was an offbeat family drama about the family of a deceased soldier. This Sanjay Suri and Om Puri starrer garnered critical acclaim and to some extent social relevance but went unnoticed. This time he tries to conquer territory that has been uninhibited and always been first choice of theatrically sound professionals. 'Siskiyaan' is infuriating and thought-provoking drama that has been forayed through three main characters. It caters mainly to classes and multiplex audiences who have cherished and accepted films like 'Black', 'Page 3' and 'Iqbal'. 'Dansh' got critical acclaim from the film fraternity for being a challenging endeavor in experimental cinema but it went unnoticed for many ordinary film buffs. Ashwini Chaudhry tries his luck with similar theme and storyline but with a different backdrop. 'Dansh' has been crafted with the backdrop of conflict between MNF (Mizo National Front) and Indian Armed Forces whereas 'Siskiyaan' has been the aftermath of grueling experiences of the Gujarat communal riots.

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The film has been an emotional journey of the protagonist with some thought-provoking unsolved questions. How can the traumatizing past of the person affect him/her and its repercussions hold his/her present? Can truth be pardoned or sacrificed at the behest of peace? Can morality prevail in today's corrupt political system? The biggest challenge that the film faces is the acceptance of such a theme that has been conceived with indifferent narration.

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'Siskiyaan' moves through serpentine slick camera movements of Ayesha Sheikh (Neha Dhupia), demoralizing emotions and insipid body language. This petrified woman has painful past and it kills her everyday. She was maltreated in the past and her excruciating past stays with her every day and night. Ayesha lives with her lovable husband Javed Sheikh (Sachin Khedkar), an editor of a daily newspaper "Inquilab". The Government of India appoints Javed as chairman of the commission investigating into the communal riots held in Gujarat. On one fateful night, Javed's car breaks down and Dr Vishwas (Sonu Sood) lifts him to his house. Ayesha suspects Dr Vishwas as her rapist and narrates her gruesome and agonizing experiences in the relief camp to his husband Javed. Javed denies it and tries to defend Vishwas but fails. Ayesha's unconscious body and blindfolded eyes haven't seen the rapist but her sixth sense made her confident about Vishwas. She plans to avenge her atrocities by handcuffing and later bashing him brutally. Initially, Ayesha demands her husband to settle scores with Vishwas but Javed is in a dilemma. Javed is stuck between the emotions of his wife and her sixth sense. She accuses Vishwas as her tormentor. In a tug of war the truth is unveiled and Ayesha avenges her atrocities.

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One night story that relies heavily on the acting histrionics of three characters can be the spice and sugar for the stage and not for the celluloid. Audiences expect larger than life size entertainment but 'Siskiyaan' neither entertains nor refreshes . Ashwini Chaudhry's direction is appreciable and at times it looks like reality show of a news channel. He has tried and trusted audience's patience and films like these fall in the cadre of parallel or art cinema. 'Dansh' went unnoticed because of its lackluster star cast, and 'Siskiyaan's commercial aspects won't be convincing either.

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Films like these shoulder their success on credible and realistic screenplay coupled with brilliant and effective acting skills. The screenplay works well but the protagonist demanding confession from the suspected tormentor is overstretched and boring. It might interest some political activist or classes but the audiences cannot digest heavy doses of realistic cinema. Neha Dhupia shows different shades this time and this will surprise her fans too. After being typecast as a sex doll it's a welcome relief for this beauty queen. Sachin Khedkar justifies his character very well and it shows in his timing and dialogue delivery.

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It's been his second impressive performance after playing the lead role of Netaji Bose in 'Bose -The Forgotten Hero'. Sonu Sood shows some promise after disappointing in love triangle 'Aashiq Banaya Aapne'. He impresses this time with some impressive climax scenes. Veteran singer Bhupinder Singh sings out the thematically poetic lyrics by Nida Fazli very well. The singer has been a listening delight after years of hibernation. Cinematography by Arun Varma is appreciable and background score by Surinder Sodhi is perfect. The slow pace of the film supports their credentials effectively.

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