Film: Black & White
Director: Subhash Ghai
Cast: Anil Kapoor, Anurag Sinha, Aditi Sharma, Shefali Shah, Habib Tanvir
Banner: Mukta Searchlight Films
Dialogue: Subhash Ghai, Akarsh Khurana, Sachin Bahumick
Cinematography: Somak Mukherjee
Art Director: Leena Chanda
Editor: Amitabh Shukla
When a master craves to explore his creativity he generally turns inwards for inspiration. But Subhash Ghai’s search for immortality deals with a subject of universal importance. That is Black and White’s first triumph.
The film resides within the context of international terrorism and the Hindu-Muslim communal tension. Within this context it explores the world of Jehadi terrorists bred under the illusion of blood wiping away all sin and pain. It lays bare the mindset of a young fundamentalist willing to lay down his life for his false notion of religion and the forces of peace, love and truth that alone can overcome such fanaticism.
Black and White is an attempt to sensitize people to the range of the problem that is terrorism. It is not a treatise advocating peace through accounts of past massacres. It is a dedicated appeal to our minds and more importantly to our philosophies as a nation and people to look beyond the obvious melodrama that surrounds communal strife world-over.
Through the character of Rajan Mathur, a Hindu Urdu teacher, (Anil Kapoor) is built a world of a simple nation and humanity-loving individual whose belief in non-violence meets flaming irons of Hindu-hatred in the intense fidayeen Mahmood alias Numair. He constantly strives to keep the sensibility and integrity of India from disintegrating under the mindlessness of communal issues in his personal and professional arena. He shares this alacrity to be involved with his activist wife Romi, (Shefali Chhaya) who also forms the centre of emotion that affects Mahmood like no other.
But Black and White is no simplistic fairy tale of criminals meant to be redeemed by the power of love and truth. In fact the film is not about redemption, it is about perspectives and solutions. Perspectives to enhance understanding the festering of the present situation. Perspectives that will enable to bring about solutions for the same. Perspectives in order to bring us out from our narrow concerns and accept that there are no simple solutions to this problem which is not only of religion but of politics, greed, selfishness and regressive, limited social values. Exposition of these various aspects in a number of subtle layers throughout the film, is its second triumph.
Despite umpteen temptations to theorize, sermonise and take sides the film masterfully resists all of them. A third triumph. Veterans writers like Ghai himself, Akash Khurana and Sachin Bhaumick make an impartial statement of the situation as is without rhetoric and without weakness. Mahmood’s character brilliantly delivers the stony reality of a Jehadi along with the compunctions that arise in his heart at meeting different versions of his own truth. There is a world of Islam beyond fanatic fundamentalism and Mahmood’s introduction to it is a brilliant piece of film writing that is not only engaging but educating and fulfilling within the screenplay.
Yet, despite a winning horse Black and White delivers a runner-up. The treatment of scenes of political intrigue, international threat and internal power play remain naively etched. Reality seems a bit tweaked to accommodate the message of peace. Scenes between Rajan Mathur and Romi seem to lack finesse and character, a drawback that does the film harm in the larger context given the emotional core that they represent. Though the film is about abundance of shades in perspective, Rajan Mathur’s character lacks certain completeness and comes across as more 2D than the much cherished 3D would have. Maybe it is the fault of characterisation that Shefali Chhaya and Anil Kapoor, both brilliant actors, shine but fail to dazzle in more than one scene. Anurag Sinha in his debut is immensely impressive. The intense eyes, set jaw and complete control with which he executes his character in no way reveals that this is a debutante. Most importantly he convinces and hence helps the director to.
Music, cinematography and editing always have been Ghai’s warhorses with whom he has won many a war. Framing, tonality and right colours have captured the stark to the tender with relish. Music similarly highlights the dramatic movements of the film and complements it ably. Editing is crisp and smart not slick and it has ensured that the film is richer in its expression but still to the point.
This probably might be Subhash Ghai’s first non-mass movie but the attempt is in the right direction.