Savera R Someshwar
The verdict is out. Dharmendra and Hema Malini's eldest born can dance. The question, however, remains: Can Esha Deol act?
Let's walk through Koi Mere Dil Se Pooche's story before we answer that.
Aman Puri (Aftab Shivdasani), a National Institute of Fashion Technology student, is every girl's dream come true: He's good-looking, rich, popular, tops his class, does not flirt, does not drink, does not smoke… All in all, as he himself confesses later on in the film, he has no "buri aadatein" [bad habits].
Life is, in fact, a smooth, happy sail for Aman. And it gets better as Aisha Singh (Esha Deol) joins NIFT. It's love at first sight for Aman and everything should be hunky-dory except for the fact that Aisha refuses to even look in his direction.
Even as a dejected Aman backs off, his ne'er-say-die Papa (Anupam Kher) jumps into the fray and organises a Valentine's Day party at NIFT for all the students and their parents.
Aman uses his favourite ploy, song 'n' dance, to woo Aisha in front of her mother, Manasi Devi (Jaya Bachchan), but the young lady is not amused. Manasi Devi, however, seems more sympathetic of Aman's ardour.
Undeterred, Aman drops in at her home and, this time, he proposes marriage. Aisha scorns him and, later, sobs her reason out in her mother's comforting arms.
A quick post-interval flashback follows. The camera zeroes in on Aisha as a resplendent Rajasthani bride. On her suhaag raat [wedding night], however, she discovers husband Dushyant (Sanjay Kapoor) is more interested in terrorising her and capturing her sans clothes on his video camera. Aisha refuses to comply and smashes his camera.
The next day, while on a hunting expedition with his wife and a foreign couple, Dushyant trains his camera on her again. This time, he wants to capture her being raped by his foreigner friend. Aisha fights back, kicking the friend and smashing a burning petroleum lamp on Dushyant's head. The tent, with Dushyant in it, catches fire.
Aisha, who manages to escape, narrates the whole sordid tale to her mother-in-law, Manasi Devi, who decides to make amends by making Aisha her daughter. The two leave Rajasthan and begin a new life.
Back in the present, Manasi Devi convinces Aisha to accept Aman. Which is where the tale might have ended but for the fact that Dushyant is alive -- with nary a scar -- and returns to terrorise Aisha and Manasi Devi. In fact, he chooses to make his presence felt during Aisha and Aman's engagement ceremony.
The rest of the story, as you might well guess, revolves around a few pivotal questions: Does Dushyant succeed in his nefarious plans? Will Aman stand by Aisha? Will Manasi Devi side with her son or her bahu [daughter-in-law]?
Let's leave these questions for a bit and get back to Esha.
If one goes by Koi Mere Dil Se Pooche, one would have to say this teenager has a long way to go before she sets the screen ablaze and has the audiences on their feet, rooting for her.
The blame does not lie completely at her door. Part of it can be attributed to those who chose Koi Mere Dil Se Pooche as her debut film. And part of it can be attributed to those who promised her a fabulous launch.
For, though her lineage is illustrious, she is obviously no natural born actor. It would make sense to let her debut with a character that goes with her personality.
Esha, as a person, exudes a confidence that almost borders on arrogance. She's athletic and seems perfectly capable of looking after herself in any situation.
Esha, on screen, is required to convey three emotions: Love, sorrow and fear. Especially fear. No wonder she flounders. She is just unable to look terrorised. Even her alleged romance with costar Aftab has not helped her shed her stern demeanour in her romantic scenes. And Hema Sardesai, who screeches through Esha's playback, only makes you want to time a popcorn break with each song.
Her debut suffers from other drawbacks as well. Neither Esha's costumes nor her 'look' is outstanding, despite Sridevi promising to take a personal interest in grooming the young star. The publicity machine, too, seems to have completely forgotten the film and focused on the New Dream Girl, quite forgetting Esha has a long way to go before she can fill her mother's shoes. The editing is shoddy and the storyline, weak.
Then there is Sanjay Kapoor, in his debut appearance as villain. One cannot deny this is his best performance as actor, but he might want to consider that there are more effective ways to induce bonechilling fear than a 'Ha-ha-ha' laugh and a bloody mask.
As for the rest of the cast, Aftab is exuberant in a role that does not offer him much of a challenge. Anupam Kher has played the loving, understanding father so often that he can now sleepwalk though his role and no one will notice. As for the gifted Jaya Bachchan, she is only required to sob her way though the film.
Koi Mere Dil Se Pooche also parodies Aditya Chopra's Mohabbatein in a big way, with Jaspal Bhatti as NIFT's principal, Naraz Shankar, and Rajpal Yadav as the violin-strumming, sweater-clad, pro-romance teacher Airon. They are funny -- though Jaspal Bhatti seriously needs to get over his Punjabi hangover -- until writer-director Vinay Shukla proceeds to flog the gag to death by pulling it again and again throughout the film.
All in all, Koi Mere Dil Se Pooche is disappointing fare from Shukla, whose debut film Godmother held much promise.
'My Dream Debut': Esha, to the camera born
'Anil is not my identity': Meet Sanjay Kapoor
'Hrithik: My first choice' Boney's options for the film.
Esha: 'A long time for stardom'
Vinay Shukla on directing Esha
Koi Mere Dil Se Pooche: A slide show
Koi Mere Dil Se Pooche: On the sets
Koi Mere Dil Se Pooche: Music review
Koi Mere Dil Se PoocheA Net Guide to the film