2003 has seen most Bollywood films flopping at the box-office as a result of stale and worn out storylines. Armaan (Desire) therefore comes as a breath of fresh air. Debutante director Honey Irani’s years of experience as a scriptwriter stands her in good stead as she crafts a fine story and avoids all of the typical Bollywood cliches that have been the downfall of many other films this year.
Set against a medical backdrop, the film revolves around the lives of Dr. Siddharth and his son Dr. Akash Sinha, played by Amitabh Bachchan and Anil Kapoor respectively. The senior Sinha (Bachchan), is a philanthropist, who owns a hospital. His one desire is to expand it into a state of the art medical center and is looking for funds to achieve his goal. His son (Kapoor), a respected neurosurgeon, is equally devoted to help realise his father´s dream. Gracey Singh plays Dr. Neha Mathur an anaesthetist, who joins the hospital as an assistant to Akash Sinha. Their cordial relation soon blossoms into love, with the blessings of Sinha senior.
But as this is Bollywood, all can’t be too rosy. The drama comes in the form of Soniya Kapoor (Preity Zinta), the spoilt daughter of business tycoon Gulshan Kapoor (Randhir Kapoor). Soniya falls for Akash and wants to marry him. To fulfill his daughter´s wish, Gulshan Kapoor strikes a deal with Dr. Siddharth Sinha. He is ready to finance the hospital project on the condition that Akash marries his daughter. By telling you more would be giving the proverbial game away. Suffice to say Armaan offers a simple story, but well told by the director Irani who is ably assisted by a more than capable cast and technical team.
Bachchan is in his element as the Doctor who lives for his profession and his son. He is matched perfectly by Kapoor who is excellent as Akash. Singh, in only her second film, follows up her role in Lagaan (Tax) with another amazing performance. It was good to see Randhir Kapoor on screen again. A popular actor of the 1970’s, he is convincing in a small role. The most difficult role is played by Zinta who tends to go over the top at times, but for the most part is convincing as a girl raised in the lap of luxury but without true love, leading to her having deep psychological issues.
The film contains some standout scenes. My favourite is the one where father and son unwind after a heavy day at the hospital by playing a musical duet. All credit to the director as she doesn’t succumb to the traditional Bollywood style of filmmaking by having them sing a song together. She has constructed a scene which is very different and completely realistic. The same approach is taken with the scenes at the hospital involving medical discussions and operations. Quite often Bollywood directors make the mistake of taking liberties with their script development which lead to totally unrealistic situations. Irani has definitely not gone this route and the result is to be seen in the film.
Music directors Shankar, Ehsaan and Loy whose hits include Mission Kashmir and Dil Chahta Hai once again offer a different and unique musical score. The photography by S. Ravi Verman is also a highlight of the film. Some song sequences were shot on location in Mauritius and South Africa and he has truly captured the beauty of these locations. Once again credit to the director as she hasn’t chosen the typical world famous landmarks of these countries as a backdrop to her songs. Instead she has opted for some unusual spots which are breathtakingly beautiful.
Some might find the film slow, but it’s definitely worthwhile.