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Contemporary parables on sin versus period drama

by Subhash K. Jha, IANS

Come Friday, and a former music composer and actress will release their different films on the wages of sin while a veteran masala movie maker will unleash a period romance on the box office.

Music composer turned director Vishal Bharadwaj's "Maqbool" and actor producer director Pooja Bhatt's directorial debut "Paap" have already attracted hype aplenty. Kuku Kohli's "Woh Tera Naam Tha" has action and drama in abundance.

Vishal Bharadwaj composed award-winning music for Gulzar's "Maachis" and Vinay "Godmother" before trotting into movie making with the acclaimed children's film "Makdee" last year. With "Maqbool", Bharadwaj has acquired further confidence since he says he can employ himself as a music composer in his own films.

Pooja Bhatt too can apply a similar logic for producing and directing "Paap".

Unlike her colleagues Raveena Tandon and Manisha Koirala who cast themselves in their first production, "Stumped" and "Paisa Vasool" respectively, Pooja Bhatt chose Bipasha Basu to play the lead in her debut production "Jism".

Pooja Bhatt is the first Hindi mainstream actress since Sadhana ("Geeta Mera Naam") and Hema Malini ("Dil Ashna Hai") to take the directorial plunge.

While her erotic parable casts newcomer Udita Goswami opposite "Jism" star John Abraham in a contemporary tale of sexual repression, "Maqbool", also about sexual repression and guilt, is carpeted with stalwarts Naseeruddin Shah, Om Puri, Irfan Khan, Pankaj Kapur and Tabu, the Who's Who of alternative cinema!

One distinguishing trait of both the films this week is that they qualify as off-mainstream products even though they adhere to the formulistic format.

Both "Maqbool" and "Paap" feature songs, music and dances. Bharadwaj has adapted Shakespeare's evergreen "Macbeth" to Mumbai's underworld, with eloquent results!

While the box office opens its arms curiously for the alternative entertainers, Kuku Kohli goes all out to woo audiences this Friday with "Woh Tera...".

While music remains integral to the product, in all other details "Who Tera...", featuring four newcomers, is as far removed from "Maqbool" as it is from "Paap".

All three films are relatively small ventures as compared with last week's "Khakee", which is expected to continue a houseful run this week.

This week's releases cobble together novel concepts and casts. "Maqbool" brings Shakespeare to Hindi mainstream cinema for the first time (not counting all the teenybopper romances that are variations on Shakespeare's "Romeo & Juliet").

"Paap" introduces a new leading lady, model Udita Goswami, and a director, Pooja Bhatt. "Woh Tera..." finds successful potboiler maker Kuku Kohli(of "Phool Aur Kante" fame) introducing four seemingly nondescript newcomers.

Kohli has made hits with debutants earlier in "Phool Aur Kante" and "Yeh Dil Aashiqana". He may do it again with "Woh Tera..." As for "Maqbool" and "Paap", they are two extremely differing views on the wages of sin. May the best man win.


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