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Review by : C. Karthik
Starring: John Abraham, Sonal Sehgal, Anaitha Nair, Girish Karnad
Direction: Nagesh Kukunoor
Music: Salim-Suleiman
Production: Percept pictures

It seems a long time back when Aashayein was announced. The director had his problems initially. Then there was a tiff between the producers and the distributors of the movie. But there was one thing which Nagesh Kukunoor, the director, always had. HOPE. And finally his hopes got released today in theatres across India.
Aashayein (hopes), starring John Abraham, Anaitha Nair, Sonal Sehgal and Girish Karnad is Kukunoor's latest after 8x10 Tasveer. Expectations? Yes, because this is the very man who gave us Hyderabad blues, Iqbal and Dor.

Aashayein is about how hope transforms the heart and mind of a young gentleman. Rahul (John Abraham), a gambler, proposes to marry his girlfriend Nafisa (Sonal Sehgal) after winning a huge sum of money in gambling. When all is well, doctors diagnose that he has lung cancer. Does Rahul cope with the thought of death in his mind? How does 'hope' play a part in shaping his thoughts? This is what Aashayein is all about.

The first few shots show John curiously observing the TV screen puffing and blowing cigarettes away. We assume he is a gambler (compulsive as the previews claimed). Being his lucky day, he wins the jackpot and earns (!!!) a huge amount of money by betting on an Indian team's loss. He throws a party to his close ones, proposes to his live-in girlfriend and faints. Doctors diagnose him of lung cancer which leaves him in a state of desperation. All the luxury life he always dreamt of seems to be hanging in the balance. In typical filmy style, he learns about Hope foundation and decides to leave his girlfriend. Not before he leaves her a huge sum of money.

John, with some clothes and lots of money lands at the hospice which is host to 50 people who are breathing their last. We see all kinds of characters here. Uncle Parthasarthi (Girish Karnad), who has throat cancer and lost his ability to speak. An ex-prostitute Madhu (Farida Jalal) who is infected with AIDS and treated as an untouchable by the inmates. A high-octane cancer patient Padma (Anaitha Nair) and the kid Govinda who, others presume, has got spiritual powers. Rahul bonds with all the characters and slowly learns what life is all about. He fulfills the dreams of the people around him realising that it is hope which makes us live, forgetting our worries.

There are very interesting scenes sprinkled throughout the movie. There are scenes which tugs your heart and melts you down. But Aashayein never gets preachy at any point. The reference to Indiana Jones in the second half which helps John find his path is quite good. John, fits perfectly as the young Indy. All these said, the movie does not make a compelling watch. Though it runs for only 120 mins, we certainly feel that it is a touch draggy.

Nagesh has always been caught between the realms of arty and commercial cinema. He may be a wonderful story teller but somehow fails to give it the touch it needs to make his movies a must watch. Aashayein has wonderful moments. Moments which make u feel, moments which make you realise a lot of things about life but it fails deliver the magic intended.

The casting is brilliant. John Abraham as Rahul has lived the character. Be it the man who dreams big, the man in self-denial, the cancer patient or the man bonding with the others in the hospice, he has done absolute justice for his character. So has Sonal Sehgal. Though she has not much to do in this movie, her subtle acting adds to the warmth that the director has intended. Girish Karnaud, as usual, makes his character as realistic as possible. Farida Jalal, has been given a small role but she surely evokes sympathy as the AIDS patient. Ashwin as Govinda is every bit a child prodigy we can expect. But the biggest piece of pie goes to Anaitha Nair. Impetuous, obnoxious and full of life, Padma makes you hate, laugh, cry and experience love with her. Good job.

Cinematography by Sudeep Chatterjee is quite good especially in the opening shot. The scenes in the hospice and the beaches have been captured well. Salim-Sulaiman's music works most of the time. Songs are loud and spoil the mood of the movie at times.

Aashayein has its moments of glory but we only hope there is more. In any case, this is a better watch than most of brainless Bollywood movies.

Verdict : Aashayein - Despair. Not entirely!

Tags : Aashayein, John Abraham, Sonal Sehgal, Anaitha Nair, Girish Karnad, Nagesh Kukunoor, Salim-Sulaiman, Percept pictures
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