Aankhen Mind Games

I am an NRI, translated into: no real Indian. I follow Indian cinema in my quest to find only one million original films before humanity as we know it disappears. I will use the term Indian cinema sparingly because I only have access to Hindi films, not Bengali, Tamil, Telugu, Urdu, Marathi, Kannada, Gujarati and other languages.

Once in a while, producers finance scripts that will keep us occupied mentally, in the dark movie theatre and later on when we are back at our daily life, waiting for the bus, the kettle to boil or the next pay cheque. Aankhen is one such film.

Vipul Amrutlal Shah’s film is an adaptation of Andhalo Pato, a Gujurati play by Shobana Desai. It is in my shopping cart for the one million original films because of the suspense and the fact that I could not predict the ending, something unusual for most cinema lovers. We have been fed the same diet for such a long time we write mental scripts as soon as we see the title.

I don’t want to call Aankhen a thriller because I’m not a film producer, who has a chest of drawers with labels for its contents: romantic comedy in the first drawer, thriller in the second, ‘chick film’ in the third, action hero in the fourth and period drama in the last drawer. Aankhen is about a man and his tailor-made destiny. Vijay Rajput (Amitabh Bachchan) built Vilas Rao Jefferson Bank from scratch until it became one of the best banks in India.

He was so dedicated to his job he did not call wayward employees to his office for first and second disciplinary warnings. He beat them up, something that worried board members who felt that his violence gave the bank a bad name. This included assaulting a night watchman who was asleep on duty and literally kicking to the curb a bank teller at the withdrawal counter who cheated a regular customer by giving her 900 instead of 1,000 rupees.

The last incident cost him his job and he was out for revenge. Vijay Singh was going to rob the bank. He went to his computer to simulate how he would put his plan to action, but came up with a blank. The penny dropped one day when he stumbled upon Neha (Sushmita Sen) training her blind students in a complicated gymnastics exercise. He decided that he was going to rob the bank using three blind men, Ilyas (Paresh Rawal), Arjun (Arjun Rampal) and Vishwas (Akshay Kumar).

Aankhen is about dedication of purpose, forsaking all others, the way a priest advises the bride and groom. Vijay Singh is an intelligent man whose brain works 24/7 to use African American speak. He never smiles, until he meets Vishwas and they play mind games. Vijay Singh privately admits to himself that he has met his match in Vishwas. What puts him in danger is that he is the only one who knows what lurks in Vijay’s mind. One of the board members at the bank called him mad. Is he?

Raincoat, directed by Ritoparnu Ghosh, is also about test of wills. Manoj (Ajay Devgan) has come to Calcutta to raise money from his former classmates for a business idea. He uses the trip to look up Niru (Aishwarya Rai), the love of his life who married another man because he was well off. He stays with his friend Alok (Annu Kapoor) in Calcutta. Sheila, Alok’s wife gives him a raincoat because of the impending rain. Alok is furious that Manoj wants directions to Niru’s house because he remembers how devastated he was when she ditched him for another man.

Manoj finds Niru at home and the mind games begin. In fact, she lies as soon as Manoj literally comes in from the rain. Manoj also lies to her about why he is in Calcutta. Alok’s wife also speaks in riddles. She cares about her visitor, and asks him questions that gave me the idea that she loved him before her marriage. Manoj seems clueless why she is so concerned. The film is a revelation in a way because of how we justify or invent crayons to colour the grey areas in our lives. It also demonstrates the pain of loving someone who is out of reach for a life time.

Shabd, produced by Pritish Nandy is supposed to be close to my heart because I’m a writer and I can relate to dry spells of creativity where the brain says ‘I’m on leave’. Shaukat (Sanjay Dutt) is a writer who hasn’t written a thing for two years making life difficult for Antara, his young and beautiful wife (Aishwarya Rai) who used to be his student.

Leena Yadav who wrote and directed Shabd nearly drove me up the wall with special effects. Opening credits are littered with falling letters of the alphabet to indicate that this is a film about writing, but the special effects are an over kill. Opening credits also have newspaper clippings of what critics say about Shaukat’s work and his moving mouth as he responds to questions. Leena also uses special effects to separate the real life from his imaginary character Tamanna.

After wading through the special effects, I finally came to story. Yash (Sayed Khan) a young photographer joins the staff at the college where Antara is a lecturer. When she tells Shaukat about him, he suggests that she should be nice to him. She doesn’t understand why her husband wants to know if she would accept red roses from him.

Shaukant is ecstatic. He is going to use Antara and Yash as characters in his book. He goes to his typewriter and tells Tamanna, his imaginary character that he is ready to write again. Meanwhile, Yash falls in love with Antara, not knowing that she is married. Shaukat’s mind games hurt his wife but she obeys him, until she starts lying to him.

The three films continue to fascinate me because they are like a jigsaw puzzle. They are in my consciousness all the time because there’s always a piece of the puzzle that doesn’t fit anywhere. I like to be entertained and also forced to use the gray matter in my head once in a while.

Nonqaba waka Msimang is the author of Sweetness The Novel.


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