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Ghai loses direction yet again in his first attempt at period cinema. Reason: Lack of confidence in his own ability as an entertainer.

Starring: Vivek Oberoi, Antonia Bernath, Isha Sharvani
Director: Subhash Ghai
Rating: *

Make way for the first big disappointment of 2005. After Yaadein, Ghai loses direction yet again in Kisna, his first attempt at period cinema. Reason: Lack of confidence in his own ability as an entertainer. Why did he have to look for inspiration in the success of Lagaan? Why can't Ghai look within and give us another Kalicharan, Karz or Ram Lakhan? In fact, Lagaan is not his only creative influence. There's also the Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon-kind of swordplay, a Muslim social mujra number and a Broadway musical unfolding in some obscure church.

Ghai portrays the most idealistic time in the life of a nation, just before our independence in 1947. But the freedom struggle, its power and pains, make a mere cameo here. Somewhere the rising nationalistic fervour gets mixed up with villainy and the most idealistic individual in the entire story, ironically, turns out to be the English girl Katherine (Bernath), giving us lessons on India and its culture, calling for secularism while partition riots play out on the streets. Is this Ghai's strategy of reaching out to the "white" world?

Katherine, the daughter of a much-hated British official, is friends with the stable boy, Kisna (Oberoi), while he is engaged to the village belle Lakshmi (Sharvani). When her house is attacked and father gets killed by the mob, Kisna comes to her rescue. And friendship turns to love. Unfulfilled love, if portrayed well, can turn the most hardened of souls into romantic fools. But Kisna-Katherine is way too superficial. The first half finds their friendship playing out rather believably, it's when passion tries to enter the frame that the film literally falls apart. Isha Sharvani is a big let down, in the way she has been used by Ghai. A character driven by deep love and destructive jealousy could have shaped up interestingly. Isha also has a confident presence to have carried it off well but is reduced to dancing away her deep desires. Then again, the modern inventive movements that her mom, Daksha Seth, is known for look totally out of place in a typical Bollywoodian context and in the hills of Devprayag where folk would have been more in tune. No wonder Isha is getting uniformally dismissed as a trapeze artiste and her rope tricks end up as nothing more than a big joke. Oberoi does little else than wear surma in his eyes and look damn unhappy. Antonia is cutesy and curiously funny in some comic sequences.

The only truly lively sparks are a hammy and oily zamindar (Rajat Kapoor) and Om Puri as the gay sidekick of tawaif Sushmita Sen. Puri wakes up the somnolent audience. Pity he doesn't stay on the scene for long.

1. Kisna
2. Page 3
3. Elaan
4. Insaan
5. Veer-Zaara

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Courtesy: Film Information

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