When I first heard about this film I was excited, because—as you may have figured out by now—I love Hindi films from the 50’s and 60’s, and have devoured every biography on every personality from that era that I can find. Also I think Sudhir Mishra is a good director, and Shantanu Moitra was doing the music; his songs for Parineeta were as close to the quality of old film music as most modern film music gets.
So—was I disappointed? Not entirely, it had several things to recommend it. But it lacked two essential elements: characters that you could invest in, and a strong story. Soha Ali Khan as struggling actress Nikhat seemed miscast to me; or perhaps she’s just too inexperienced yet—I would have liked to see what Rani Mukherjee or even Kareena Kapoor might have done with the character. As it was, Soha tried; but she didn’t quite manage to imbue Nikhat with much depth or personality. She looked sort of old and haggard too (although strangely better towards the end, when she was supposed to look old and haggard!). Shiney Ahuja didn’t do much with his aspiring writer/director character Zafar either beyond clenching his jaw or shouting.
I think the story lost out partly because the performances weren’t up to it, but also because it wasn’t tight and cohesive enough. It was uneven and disjointed and never achieved any kind of flow. The end seemed thrown together and Nikhat’s downward spiral didn’t ring true (although I always love a Shammi plug in any film!).
What didn’t disappoint me was the sense of authenticity—the romantic liaisons, the politics, the changing alliances and the machinations of people struggling to attain or maintain their positions in a claustrophic and unforgiving industry. The sets and costumes created the right atmosphere (although I sometimes found the grainy film effects distracting). And Rajat Kapoor as the aging film hero Prem Kumar and Vinay Pathak as an aspiring director/producer did hit the right notes, essentially rescuing me from having nobody to care about much. And those two things together were enough to entertain me, although not enough for me to say that it’s a really good film.
Some of my favorite scenes for their nostalgia value:
I always love it when the hero sings a gorgeous song and plays piano with the heroine…
I have coveted the glass chandeliers and lamps in so many Mughal historicals…
and I would give anything to go to a film premiere at the Regal Cinema!
I found the parallels between the characters and people who actually exist(ed) interesting. For instance, Zafar plunges into Guru Dutt-inspired depression and drink when his pet project flops with critics and audiences:
Nikhat does a Helen act as a vamp in a B movie:
And of course, her final ailment is lifted right out of Madhubala’s life.
As I said earlier, Rajat Kapoor’s turn as aging film hero _________ (insert any one of them here) is very impressive. And the music is beautiful, although it is incorporated into the film as awkwardly as the plot.
In essence: if you are an old movie buff, you will likely enjoy at least parts of Khoya Khoya Chand. If not, it might be heavy going. I really wish it had been a better film.