By Subhash K Jha
Just one question hurled across my mind after watching this high-velocity action thriller where the mighty Bachchan rescues a little girl from kidnappers in Bangkok - Why in the name of heaven and hell is the screenplay credited to Manoj Tyagi and Apoorva Lakhia when the film is almost entirely lifted from Tony Scott's Man On Fire?
That apart, EK AJNABEE is an above-average adaptation of a clever thriller with a central performance that tears through all cynical reading of celluloid apery.
The awesome Bachchan doesn't walk the talk. He strides through the lines as though to the baritone-born. He hardly speaks. But when he does… by jove! You still cling to the words that slice the stillness.
This is certainly not Bachchan's first strong-and-silent loner's role. What makes this one special is the interweavement of emotion and action. The narrative packs in a punch both ways.
Set in hedonistic Bangkok Gururaj R.J's camera rips across the rhythms of violence to form a beautiful bonding between the sullen bodyguard and his mature little custody. One can't say Baby Rucha plays against the Bachchan as effectively as Ayesha Kapoor in the neo-classic BLACK. But she gets her expressions and reaction dead-on.
You wish there was more of the unlikely pair's interaction. But the scarcity of their emotional expression serves the narrative's purpose well. Here's a pair that needs more time together. And when the villains whisk the impish scene-stealer from the protagonist's range of vision, all hell breaks loose.
Lakhia captures the heat sweat and violence of a city of the brink without missing the link. Steven Bernard's editing is first-rate, though a little hard on the eye. No shot lasts longer than ten seconds. This creates a perceptional problem. We don't get to recognize any of the characters from the inside.
As a surface look at lives soaked in vinegary danger and crime EK AJNABEE works fine. The film captures some tender moments between Bachchan and the little girl, but tends to saturate the soundtrack with too many sweaty sinister sounds. Amar Mohile could've gone for a less exacerbated background score.
Whatever the film's follies of friskiness, they're more than compensated for by performances. The narrative has some nice supporting performances, particularly Arjun Rampal who's gone both over and under the skin of his bar-owner ex-army man's role. Not only does Rampal look right, he feels right. Perizaad Zorabian as the kidnapped girl's sincere mother is sincere.
But as usual it's the Bachchan who towers above all. His clenched jaws and sad eyes convey eons of bridled energy.
Watch this film for the Bachchan's ceaseless celluloid strength. Though Lakhia's control over the medium will also surprise you. So what if this is rip off? Better a watchable remake than bad originals!