Have you heard of a film where, if you've watched the trailer, you have seen it all? Honey Irani's directorial debut Armaan is, sadly, a classic example of this phenomenon. The film's promos suggest it's a stale tale about people trapped in situations conspicuous by their complete lack of originality.
You already know Amitabh Bachchan is a doctor who dreams of making his hospital a state-of-the-art medical facility. You don't know he has been honoured with the Padma Bhushan, so that's one reason to watch the film!
You've figured out Anil Kapoor is his beloved son and a gifted doctor himself. You don't know he's adopted, so that's news.
You know Gracy Singh is a doctor in this stately hospital in a picturesque Himalayan town. You don't know she's an anaesthetist of some repute.
That leaves out Preity Zinta, who isn't a doctor, and very much the thorn in everyone's side. That she's seen in skimpy clothes (as opposed to Gracy's 'proper' look), dancing about brandishing a knife and fork and wearing a bloodred headband with devilish horns in the promos suggests she is either scheming or demented or both. She appears to be piling on to Anil, while he reserves his brightest smiles for Gracy, so you know exactly which way his heart is inclined.
Add to that Preity's stinking rich father Randhir Kapoor (among the 10 richest Indians in the world, you are informed) who tells Amitabh he can offer unlimited funds for the development of his hospital and then reminds him there are no free lunches in this world, and you get a complete picture of where this story is headed.
So, where's the excitement? I mean, you should have been biting your nails in anticipation of a talented writer's directorial debut. After all, here is a lady who penned such engrossing films as Lamhe (Anil Kapoor, Sridevi), Aaina (Jackie Shroff, Juhi Chawla, Amrita Singh) and Kaho Naa... Pyaar Hai (Hrithik Roshan, Ameesha Patel). (We'd prefer to forget she also wrote Kya Kehna!) Besides, the screenplay has been written by Honey and her ex-husband Javed Akhtar who is, without doubt, one of Hindi cinema's finest writers.
But all you get is wishy-washy melodrama, which reminds you of a line from Gulzar's Ijaazat -- "Phir wohi sacrifice, sacrifice, all the time."
Be that as it may, there are moments that give you a glimpse of Honey's true potential. Like the jovial exchange between Amitabh, Anil and Gracy when he finds out about his son's feelings for the anaesthetist. Or the manner in which the Anil-Gracy relationship is developed in its early stages.
The film's hill-station backdrop is quite pleasing. The sets are grand and, mercifully, not garish. The lighting, however, seems dull at times.
Music directors Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy strum up a couple of decent compositions, notably, Mere dil ka tumse and Meri zindagi mein aaye ho.
Gracy, in her first release after Lagaan, is pleasant as Miss Goody Two Shoes. Randhir Kapoor, who makes a sudden comeback after Mother (Rekha, Jeetendra, Rakesh Roshan), talks like Parikshit Sahni (God knows why!). Anil doesn't look too comely romancing girls nearly half his age. But he's sincere, as always, with his performance.
Preity's character bears a striking resemblance to Amrita's Roma in Aaina. Both women are so used to getting their way that they don't care for other people's feelings. But while Amrita's performance was a picture of polished restraint, Preity's flair for spontaneity is missing in this act.
The one person, however, who is truly outstanding in this all-star cast is Amitabh Bachchan. You need to only watch him clutching an injured boy in his hands and trying to reach him to the hospital even as he's struggling for his own life to know why he's a great actor.
If only Honey had come up with a better performance herself to make her directorial debut a memorable one. Unfortunately, Armaan is way off the mark.
Cast: Amitabh Bachchan, Anil Kapoor, Preity Zinta, Gracy Singh, Randhir Kapoor
Production: Aarti Enterprises
Story, direction: Honey Irani
Screenplay: Honey Irani, Javed Akhtar
Dialogues, lyrics: Javed Akhtar
Music: Shankar, Eshaan, Loy
Background score: Raju Singh
Cinematography: S Ravi Varman
Choreography: Saroj Khan, Farha Khan, Geeta Kapur
Art direction: Yunnus Pathan, Kiran Khanna