2 Stars. Elaan (Challenge). Directed by Vikram Bhatt. With Mithun Chakraborthy, Rahul Khanna, John Abraham, Arjun Rampal, Amisha Patel, Lara Dutta.

A Vikram Bhatt film is often, at best, a mediocre offering. This is, after all, the same director who made Aitbaar, a dud which couldn’t even be saved by the prescence of the Bollywood legend Amitabh Bachchan. Suffice to say, Bhatt has had few successes at the box office. In fact, you can count them on one hand and still have quite a few fingers unused. It was with this in mind that I approached Elaan with a feeling of trepidation. The fact that the film is being released in Cape Town months after being shown in other parts of the country also had me concerned. It is quite pleasing then, that while watching Elaan, I was entertained. Let me clarify, this is no masterpiece and has its fair share of glaring holes in the script, continuity errors and hugely over the top acting. But Bhatt doen’t take the film seriously, it’s all done pretty tongue in cheek, so you’ll even be entertained by the mistakes. On the positive side though, the acting is quite good and the international locations are a major asset.

The basic story premise is simple. An underworld don is wreaking havoc amongst the elite of the Mumbai business world by threatening their lives in order to extort money. He operates from a foreign country that has no extradition laws with India and therefore is untouchable. When he orders the death of a prominent businessman who dared to stand up to him, he incurs the wrath of the businessman’s adopted son, who swears revenge. The son teams up with a former police officer to carry out his plan. They bust a former member of the don’s gang out of jail to help them in their quest. On the way they are joined by a television reporter who fancies the son and the jailbirds’ girlfriend. Together this motley crew attempts to bring the don back to India to face justice.

Elaan marks the first major Bollywood appearance of Rahul Khanna who plays the adopted son Karan. Khanna has carved a niche for himself in the crossover Indian film market with films like Bollywood Hollywood. His Bollywood debut is a credible one, but to my mind he bears an uncanny resemblance to David Schwimmer (Ross in the TV series Friends) and this tends to distract when he tries to emote in a serious scene. The film also heralds the comeback of Mithun Chakraborty, a one time leading man in the 1980’s and early 90’s. He plays the don, Baba Sikander, and performs well as the chief villain, despite poor characterisation. Arjun Rampal as the police officer and John Abraham as the jailbird are surprisingly good. But Abraham, as he is wont to, does tend to overact in emotional scenes. The females, Amisha Patel and Lara Dutta, are really just there for window dressing and don’t add much to the film.

The major stars of the film though, are undoubtedly the international locations which include Venice, Munich and parts of Austria and Switzerland. Unlike other Bollywood films that merely shoot song sequences in foreign countries, important scenes of Elaan are set in the aforementioned locations and that adds to the stylish quality of the film.

Elaan doesn’t make for challenging viewing, but offers two hours of mindless entertainment.

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    Mehboob Bawa is an actor, producer, writer, voice artiste and Bollywood specialist. He covers the Bollywood scene for The Cape Times, the morning daily newspaper in Cape Town, South Africa.


    July 2011