"Bewafaa" had it all. A great looking star cast, a huge budget and an interesting, traditionally bound plot inspired by B.R. Chopra's bold and progressive 1960s drama "Gumrah". But director Dharmesh Darshan throws it all away.
At first you are saddened by the sterile drama that he has created out of a potentially dramatic scenario. Then you're filled with rage at the extravagant and sad waste of precious resources.
At a time when films like "Page 3", "Black" and even a much-vilified film like "Sins" tries to take our cinema beyond the mundane, "Bewafaa" tries to pull it back into the stone age.
"Bewafaa" leaves you with the dread of the dead. The characters aren't only dwarfed and diminished but finally defeated and destroyed by the director's dysfunctional equations between time and space.
Darshan's directorial vision is purely from a decadent decade, possibly the l960s, when actors were made to stand against imposing backdrops to look "glamorous".
The plot, for those unfamiliar with Chopra's "Gumrah" is about the dilemma of a woman who must marry her widowed brother-in-law for the children's sake. Mala Sinha heaved a hefty melodramatic life into her role. Kareena Kapoor in the same role is crippled by a script that wants her character to cheat on her husband and still come out smelling like plastic roses.
Where she needed to breathe fire she simply stands in trendily designed saris trying to fit into a wifely role that the plot conceived for her.
It's a losing battle. The director's obsession with eye-catching surfaces gets in the way of the cast's most honest wishes - whatever they might be. While Anil Kapoor, Kareena and Akshay Kumar under play at crucial points, Manoj Bajpai and Shamita Shetty - playing an over-sexed, under-brained couple go so over-the-top, they topple into the pretty abyss that Darshan creates out of his glossy imagination.
There is also a group of socialites (a favourite satirical target in Dharmesh Darshan's cinema) played by the director's favourite Navneet Nishan among others who walk the raunchy path to invoke more revulsion than wrath.
Sapped of all passion "Bewafaa" is a film about marriage and adultery without any sex. If Anurag Basu's similarly plotted "Murder" made the adulteress strip on camera, "Bewafaa" goes the shudder way. All the characters stand stiffly in designer clothes that they don't know how to get out of.
Scene after scene of potential warmth is frittered away in frozen languor. For a film about family ties and human relationships, no two people (except Sushmita and Kareena in an early scene of sisterly bonding) seem to connect.
Scenes of purported familial warmth such as the one where Kabir Bedi and his family dance in the drawing room are so phoney, they are funny. At the end when Anjali (Kareena) lectures her lover Raja (Akshay) about how impossible it is for a mother to betray her children, you gawk at her rhetorical posturing.
Nowhere do we see her mothering and nurturing her dead sister's twin girls - the reason why she marries her tight-lipped brother-in-law in the first place.
It's not the characters, it's the director's obsession with surface tensions that destroy the plot's inherent drama. Rather than focus on the various fascinating angles to human bonds and accompanying obligations, Darshan has chosen to make a sanitised, emotionless, impotent, self-important, aimless and pointless film.
Every character and the songs they croon are designed to create an impression. In the absence of a spirited inner world, "Bewafaa" fails to create any sympathy for the vivacious young girl forced to sacrifice love for family duties.
Promising on paper, hollow in execution, "Bewafaa" represents the worst, most damaging type of cinema in Bollywood.