Lakshya


Director: Farhan Akhtar
Music: Shankar Ehsaan Loy; Lyrics: Javed Akhtar
Year: 2004
Running Time: ?

I want to join the Indian army. I want to wear those very spiffy uniforms and learn to march those fancy choreographed high steps. I want the simple comradery of good men and the starch discipline it would bring into my soft life. I want to fear no danger and die with Jai Hind (Hail India) on my lips. I want a woman pining for me at home with tears in her eyes as I march solemnly off to war. I want a chance to give speeches of bravado about protecting the sacredness of the Indian soil and the enemy’s dastardly treachery. I want to be able to gaze with clinched jaw at a far off mountain peak and say that recapturing it is my Lakshya (objective). Instead, I work for a bank and there are so few chances to do any of these things in banking – no uniforms, no speeches, no women pining – only crowded subway rides to work, redundancy and lots of clock watching. Is it too late for me to join up I wonder?

This part Bollywood, part recruitment film delves into the same subject matter of the recent “Line of Control” but with much better results. While LOC was at times a painfully nationalistic regurgitation of the events of Kargil (a 1989 mini-war between India and Pakistan), Lakshya takes a much more personal and relatively subtle viewpoint as it focuses on the story of one man and what brought him to this point in his life. It is by no means a layered objective look at the conflict (my guess is that would be met with death threats and box office disaster), but it at least keeps the jingoism secondary to the human story that is partly a love story but primarily one of a man finding himself. And where he finds himself is in the Indian army.
Hrithik Roshan is a complete slacker, the product of little discipline, too much privilege and no ambition. He has just completed college and has no idea where to go next and isn’t particularly worried about it. His wealthy parents prod him to do something with his life, but sleeping late and being pampered by their household of servants is much too comforting to depart from. With his hair combed straight down over his forehead and a constant look on his face that approaches idiocy, Hrithik does his best to emulate a state of languidness – but in truth not very successfully – instead of displaying the wonderful ennui of Dustin Hoffman in “The Graduate”, Hrithik more approximates his mentally deficient character in the film “Koi Mil Gaya”. His girlfriend, Preity Zinta, is the exact opposite – she knows exactly what she wants – to be a journalist and sets out after finishing school to reach that goal. To play younger than she is, Preity also mangles her hair into a retched mess of curls that only makes her look older – as soon as the curls vanish and we have Preity back I gave a sigh of relief – no more perms for Preity, please!
Because a friend decides to go to military school, Hrithik joins up as well much to his parent’s opposition – but soon learns that sleeping late is a no-no and he doesn’t have the requisite toughness to make a go of it. He leaves but when Preity learns what he has done she gives him the heave-ho and with his face set in steely resolve he returns with new determination to finally do something on his own. Upon graduating, his first post of duty is set in the breathtaking picturesque high mountains of Kargil that sits on the border that separates Kashmir into it’s Indian and Pakistani pieces. The air is brisk, the company is manly, snow caps the far off peaks and soon Pakistani’s cross the Line of Control and occupy the mountaintops from which they can lob down shells on the roads below. Under the resolute command of Amitabh Bachchan, Hrithik’s division is ordered to take back the highest peak of them all – and no guessing who turns up as a television reporter on the front lines or who the war hero turns out to be.
As the follow up to the monster hit, Dil Chahta Hai, Laksyha is an interesting and surprising choice for director Farhan Akhtar. DCH was a low-key film about male friendship that to a large degree avoided clichéd melodrama and felt very modern and Western to most viewers, but Lakshya takes on this overwrought melodrama like unneeded ballast that doesn't allow the film to rise above its simplistic plot. In its three hour running time it never manages to flesh out any of the characters besides Hrithik’s and never instills any of the relationships – his with Preity, with his parents or with his fellow soldiers - with any warmth or depth of feeling – it all feels by the numbers and mandatory. One of the few moments that really is emotionally effecting is when Hrithik calls his father up and pours out his feelings about letting him down – but this is almost circumstantial emotion – he is going off on a dangerous mission with little chance of survival and this may be the last opportunity he gets to tell his father how much he loves him – easy stuff to wring emotion from – though Hrithik nails it wonderfully well. In fact, once Hrithik comes to manhood he is very good and likable and almost gets away with turning this standard material into something memorable. In the end though one never feels invested in the characters and most of the entertainment value of the film comes from the songs and the action.
The songs are fairly good, but what one remembers most from them is Hrithik’s dancing. It just gets better and better. From his first film, his dancing has always been a standout – especially among the other flatfooted male stars who usually look awkwardly reluctant to be doing it – but initially his dancing struck me as more physical than graceful, but he moved it up a notch in Koi Mil Gaya with a Gene Kelly like number and here he performs some difficult moves that are really fun to watch. The action consists primarily of two scenes – one of the division attacking the Pakistani positions which is somewhat confusing but at the same time powerful in its ineffectiveness and then a mountain side scaling that had my heart somewhere up in my throat.

My rating for this film: 6.5

Song 1

Song 2

Song 3