Arjun Rampal, John Abraham, Rahul Khanna, Amisha Patel and Lara Dutta, Mithun Chakraborty.
By Subhash K. Jha, IANS
It's a moment that defines the plot. Industrialist Karan Shah's (Rahul Khanna) father has been gunned down. A snoopy over made-up journalist from a real-life news channel sneaks into the tycoon's cordoned office building for some sumptuous sound bites.
But then Priya sees the grieving son sitting in shattered, bloodied bereavement in his office. She mumbles an apology and withdraws.
The moment reminded one of those two other ambitious newshounds, Shabana Azmi in "Main Azaad Hoon" and Juhi Chawla in "Phir Bhi Dil Hai Hindustani", confronted by their conscience during a time of crisis.
The crisis in "Elaan" is multiple. On the most visible level it involves Karan Shah's battle against extortion and murder by a don named Baba (Mithun Chakraborty). The whole effort to extradite Baba from his Alpine hideout through Karan's "five-man army" - comprising Rahul, Arjun Rampal, John Abraham, Amisha Patel and Lara Dutta - draws pointed attention to the film's hybridised antecedents and also to the headline-hitting Abu Salem extradition story.
The theme of a group of self-appointed angels of justice bringing a barbaric bandit to book isn't new to cinema. Ramesh Sippy did it with extraordinary élan in "Sholay". Before him it was Akira Kurosawa in "The Seven Samurai" and John Sturges in "The Magnificent Seven". After Sippy everyone from Raj Santoshi ("China Gate") to Ram Shetty ("Army") has attempted a "Sholay".
Vikram Bhatt's take on the all-time classic is a rigorous re-invention of "Sholay". That bandit Gabbar Singh in "Sholay" transforms in the suave and sartorially chic Baba in "Elaan" is a sign of the times.
Bhatt clutches at those signs and converts them into neon signposts of action cinema in the post-"Sholay" generation. The initial sequences showing Rahul's family's trauma and his father's determination not to succumb to extortion threats are sensitively handled.
The mercenary milieu is also mapped out with a diligence and deftness defying the haphazardness of the action genre. Each character that joins hands with the slain tycoon's son is etched with some care. And the cast is constantly easy on the eyes though they lack the laconic sexiness of the outlaws' ensemble in Sanjay Gupta's "Musafir".
Cinematographer Pravin Bhatt shoots the characters in Venice with a vigour that conveys both a face value and a bit of life under the surface.
The build-up towards the second-half is achieved with care. However, it's downhill all the way in the second-half with the climax signalling an abysmal dip in the narrative graph. The shoot-out is staged in a blotchy blurred blizzard of rain and gunshots where visibility seems to have deliberately been obfuscated.
The arresting élan of the first-half is effectively lost in the second, thereby exemplifying a problem that plagues mainstream cinema.
"Elaan" simply runs out of steam. The three songs in the narrative are three too many. They go from vapid to trite to corny. Shouldn't mainstream cinema, especially those made by directors who know their job, stop mixing genres?
Among the cast, Arjun and John are well contrasted as the strong dependable family man and the jaunty boorish beefcake, a sort of new-age Amitabh Bachchan and Dharmendra from "Sholay".
While John's laboured performance is supported by crowd-pleasing lines and a swagger, Arjun is pretty much on his own. Once again playing a man with responsibilities he brings a controlled conviction to both his scenes with his screen daughter and his engrossing death scene.
Rahul's is another calm-and-credible performance. The actor uses his eyes rather than his complete physicality to get his point across. Like Arjun he's a refreshing screen persona.
It's interesting to see the women being sucked into the murderous mission. Amisha is fetchingly photographed. But she could've gone easy on the war paint. Lara Dutta is always an interesting figure. Wish one could praise her performance or even her clothes. But there isn't much of either here.