Anand Raj Anand
Priyanshu Chatterjee, Ayub Khan, Nawab Shah, Cleo Isaacs, Laila Patel.
Subhash K. Jha, IANS
Shekhar Kapur could sue for defamation. The protagonist of this weird thriller-caper played by Priyanshu Chatterjee is named after the famed filmmaker.
But "Woh" is demonically and tragically distanced from the cinema of Kapoor. Quentin Tarantino-meets-Raj Khosla in this chalky and cheesy brew of crime violence and sex.
First, the lust. Check out the woman who writhes and moans while washing a car. Someday cineastes will look at Laila Patel's car-wash exercise as an example of how cheesy Hindi cinema became when the stakes were down.
Sadly Patel, who plays the mythic moll, and Cleo Isaacs, who plays the tradition heiress in distress, appear as sensuous as molar surgery. Jaws move dextrously in this kinky movie. Alas, coherent motivations are sadly lacking behind the sassy words.
Various cops, villains and cop-villains run helter-skelter probably in search of a script, though one is never too sure of anything in this pathetic portrait of perverse formulism as the narrative's inherent bankruptcy of ideas surfaces with scathing velocity.
At the vortex of the sham crisis is Priyanshu Chatterjee, alias Shekhar Kapur, the rakish stranger caught in a web of crime.
The inspiration for the character seems to be Dev Anand's capers like "Jaal" and "Jewel Thief". But much of the bizarre screenplay is composed of characters who appear to have walked into the wrong plot. They either look bewildered or lost. Or both.
There's Sonali, the heiress with the booty whose uncle wants her dead. There's the innocent hero in search of a job in Mumbai who wants the heiress in bed. Alas, there's as little chemistry between the bountiful heiress and the reinvented Dev Anand as between the director and his audience.
Still, Priyanshu is the only reason why one would want to sit through this tale. He struggles hard to infuse a sense of intelligence to an over-written character who's at once gullible and righteous, raunchy and puritanical.
Director Raj Sippy has made many slick-and-splendid Hollywood films in the past. His banner has produced illustrious films like "Koshish" and "Khubsoorat". Why did he choose to make a comeback with such a ghastly show?
Sippy gets no support from his crew. The music by Anand Raj Anand is bad. The sets, which include a rowdy bar and a raunchy bathroom where Laila Patel vents her vamp's manoeuvres, could invite the audience's ire.
Almost everything about "Woh" is exasperating.
Ayub Khan as the hired killer plays his sadistic role with the relish of a gourmet trying hard to enjoy a mildewed meal. He even takes off his clothes and gets into the bathtub to smooch the moll.
But it's more a lost than a lust battle for all the exacerbated characters. At the end when the hero realises he's been taken for a ride, Priyanshu's face falls.
And you wonder: is that a look of dismay for being caught in such a heinous film? Or is he sympathising with viewers?