Manisha Koirala, Karan Nath, Netanya Singh, Rajat Kapoor.
By Subhash K Jha, IANS
Adultery is no laughing matter. But many a time you're cornered into chuckling in this film about a beautiful, slightly bored housewife and mother, who is seduced by a stranger in a vulnerable moment.
When Karan Nath, who recently used the same set of expressions (scowl, grin, scowl, grin...) to play a grisly murderer in "Shhhhhh", plays the suave, seductive stranger, you know what you are in for.
Suspending all disbelief and amusement, you smother your rising giggles as Manisha Koirala, looking quite inviting in a blue saree, stumbles into bed with the stranger in a drunken stupor. What follows can only be described as an unintended comedy. Karan puts his best feet forward. There are no moans, just groans...all from the audience.
A few seconds later the lady sobs and says she made a mistake. Mistake???? Big mistake! If the director has the guts to make a film about a woman's adulterous tryst, why can't she go all the way? Why must the transgressor pay with all she's worth? The payback in "Tum" is pretty ghastly.
Kamini's one-night-stand turns out to be a ruthless obsessive maniac, who threatens to seduce her teenaged daughter if she doesn't give in. Before we can refocus our perceptions to accommodate inky black into perverse purple, director Aruna Raje has changed genre like a bored and distracted traveller.
Halfway through "Tum" converts from a study of adultery and guilt to a whodunit, with every member of the cast being a suspect or claiming to have done it.
While the first overture of this rocky opera about the housewife and the photographer seems inspired by Aparna Sen's "Paroma", the second whodunit movement in the snail-paced plot seems to pay a heaving homage to Mohan Sehgal's 1960 "Sajan", in which everyone screamed, "Judge Sahib I dunnit!" to save their loved one's skin.
They did it for love. The characters in "Tum" look so askew you wonder whether they know what they want!
Fortunately for us, "Tum" never gets into the courtroom. Our cup of woes brims over nevertheless, with Aman Varma scowling like a myopic trying to read the writing on the wall, conducting investigations into Mr Suave Seducer's murder as though auditioning for a role in Law & Order.
Director Raje seems like that anxious housewife who wants to serve a full meal for her dinner guests. For comedy (intended, I mean) there's cop Varma's loud asides with his constable every time a suspect acts over-suspiciously.
For songs there's Himesh Reshamiyya creating an indifferent score in trying to create a different one. And for snores, the film gets a trickle of an audience all waiting to run out en masse.
And for sex, there's absolutely no inhibition. Love scenes are done with suitably soft-focus lenses as couples writhe to simulate ecstasy.
In one seduction sequence, Netanya Singh stretches her limbs so far you feel she might actually be trying to get to the same unknown destination as the director.
It's baffling and inconceivable how a mature filmmaker like Aruna Raje could make such a juvenile film on sex and the Indian middle class woman.
When Rekha went out and had sex outside marriage in Basu Bhattacharya's "Astha" she admitted she liked variety. We never know why Manisha got intimate with the toy-boy.
Where there should have been passion and urgency there's only a slow-motion sluggishness. In all fairness the director creates Kamini's home ambience, her relationship with her clam and bovine husband (Rajat Kapoor) and two adolescent children with understanding.
For the most part the script seems more sold on suggestions than ramifications. The characters, such as the model Netanya Singh's gay(?) friend (played by Bobby Darling) are flimsily authenticated.
Aruna Raje seems perched uneasily between doing what's right at the box office and what comes naturally to her. For every scene that rings true (like the leery socialite asking Kamini if she 'enjoyed' herself with the photographer) there are a dozens that don't duplicate let alone replicate reality.
Manisha Koirala tries to bring a semblance of order and dignity to her character. If she had better support from the script and dialogue writer she would have been better able to project the guilt and trauma of a woman whose one-night-stand threatens to tear her world apart.
"Tum" puts you off, not just one-night-stands but also sex and other manifestation of man-woman intimacy, which this film unconsciously mocks and finally mucks up beyond repair.
If this is what the new wave of sexual permissiveness in our cinema generates, then let's go back to the two flowers touching each other. At least the birds and the bees would have less reason to be offended.
More about Tum
- Music Review