Reviewed by Simon Booth
Director: Suresh Krissna
Music: Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy; Lyrics:Javed Akhtar
Running Time: 2 hours 57 minutes
One thing I don't often get from Bollywood
films is surprises, but Abhay is certainly an exception - it's got quite
a few of them. It's mostly unlike any Indian film I've seen - though
it does inhabit similar territory to the same year's AKS. Abhay and Vijay
are twins, but end up in very different circumstances when they get older.
Vijay is a decorated army commando with a beautiful fiancé (Raveena
Tandon), whilst Abhay has been in an asylum since he killed his stepmother
as a teenager. When Vijay announces his plans to wed his fiance (a
decision forced by circumstances that were another surprise), Abhay becomes
convinced she has nefarious plans for his brother, and vows to come and
save him from "the witch". Given that Abhay is a hulk of a man with a sharp
intellect and tendencies towards violence, Vijay doesn't take this promise
Vijay is a model citizen, Abhay is a model psycho
- the two couldn't be more different ... which is one reason it came as
a complete shock when I checked IMDB part way through and found that both
characters were played by the same actor (Kamal Haasan, who also wrote
the script). This is one of the areas in which Abhay surprised me
greatly - apart from anything else, Abhay is totally bald whilst Vijay
has a natural and fairly full head of hair and moustache, implying
that the scenes in which both characters appear must have been filmed weeks
if not months apart. Scenes where they actually share the screen
are relatively few, but are very well executed.
This was obviously a pet project for Kamal Haasan
(his 201st starring role by the way!), and he gives two very different
but equally good performances in his dual roles. It's clear that
of the two characters Abhay is his favourite though, and he really gets
into character. Abhay is a far better developed character than crazed
killers tend to be - The big USP for Abhay is the way digital effects and
cel animation are utilised to treat the viewer to a journey inside his
mind, into the world as he sees it through mental illness and various drugs.
These scenes are the source of the film's most intriguing and visually
impressive moments, and are very well realised. Similar techniques
have been used in other films (e.g. Pink Floyd's THE WALL), but as far
as I know they've never been used in an Indian film, and probably never
quite like they are in Abhay.
The script for Abhay contains quite a few other
surprises, which I will leave you to discover for the most part.
It's well written and fairly intelligent, suggesting again that Kamal Haasan
put a lot of work and love into the film. Unfortunately but not unexpectedly
things take a downturn in the last half hour, as the story and point are
slaughtered in order to end with a couple of big action scenes which are
seriously over the top and rather impressive, but quite destroy the vibe
the film had managed to build in the previous 140 minutes. Although
I enjoyed these scenes, I did wish Abhay had surprised me again and come
up with a more cerebral conclusion.
Technically, Abhay is accomplished. There
is some beautiful art direction and camerawork, leading to great visuals
- especially the more hallucinatory and digitally manipulated ones.
The songs are very good, and the choreography is great. The song
about Laughter is funny and catchy, and the bizarre cameo song/dance from
Manisha Koirala features some fantastic acrobatics from the backing dancers.
Conclusion: a well made, unique and very
enjoyable film. Recommended! 8/10.
The DEI DVD for Abhay is well presented - a
good anamorphic image and an ok surround sound track, with excellent English
subtitles. No extras, but it did only cost me about $4 (www.nehaflix.com),
and provided me with more entertainment than an average US dvd costing
five times that much :)
There is also a Tamil dvd of the film
- the movie was filmed simultaneously in Tamil and Hindi - the Tamil name