Kaleidoscope of emotions
Scriptwriter Honey Irani makes her directorial debut with "Armaan," releasing worldwide today. The film, it is hoped, will rejuvenate the box-office as it refreshingly combines Bollywood film aesthetics with international cinematic sensibilities, says SREEDHAR PILLAI.
Preity Zinta plays the arrogant daughter of a business tycoon.
FINALLY BOLLYWOOD'S most prolific scriptwriter, Honey Irani, is making her directorial debut with "Armaan" releasing today (May 16) worldwide, after its premiere at the IIFA Awards Night 2003 in Johannesburg, South Africa. "Armaan" evokes a kaleidoscope of colour, style and substance as Honey tries to probe and understand human relationships.
Honey Irani is under tremendous pressure as the trade is looking up to "Armaan" to do well at the box-office, which has had few winners so far this year. Honey has the two biggies of the industry Amitabh Bachchan and Anil Kapoor playing father and son, "Lagaan" fame Gracy Singh and the most hot and happening girl, Preity Zinta, plus the great music of Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy. The most refreshing aspect of "Armaan" is that she has tried to combine mainstream Bollywood film aesthetics with international cinematic sensibilities.
In the film-making process itself, Honey Irani has deviated from tradition in several ways. It was shot in a single schedule across Mumbai, Mussoorie, Mauritius and Sun City (South Africa) in 82 days, using sync sound instead of dubbing, and for the first time online editing took place at the location itself. (Shirish Kundar is now using the same technique for Kamal Hassan's "Sandiyar").
Still Honey Irani is worried and says with a giggle: ``In spite of all this I am so scared, as only a cleverly-crafted script and ensemble performance will ultimately work with the audience.'' She has taken insurance on this by roping in her former husband and now good friend, Javed Akhtar, to write the dialogue and lyrics. According to Honey, ``the story is about people, their innermost desires, the turbulent human relationships and bitter-sweet moments of life.'' She feels that her storytelling has to be proficient, in control and flawless in terms of technique.
Anil Kapoor, Amitabh Bachchan and Gracy Singh in a scene from "Armaan".
Honey has come a long way since she started out as a child artiste along with her elder sister, Daisy Irani. But Honey was never interested in acting and was always more keen on storytelling. She shot into fame when she assisted Yash Chopra in scripting the complex female-oriented "Lamhe," in which Sridevi played the dual role of mother and daughter with Anil Kapoor playing the male lead.
But the film did not work at the box-office and with a vengeance she wrote "Darr" with Shah Rukh Khan playing an obsessive lover. The film was a super-hit. Later she did "Aaina," where she took two sisters as the central characters and showcased the elder one's superiority complex and jealousy towards the younger one. Honey was also responsible for the script of "Kaho Na Pyaar Hai" in which she portrayed Hrithik Roshan as a teenage heartthrob and made him a phenomenon.
Honey Irani could make a woman-oriented film with Preity Zinta in the lead in "Kya Kehna" and make it work at the box-office. Confesses Honey : ``My stories always dealt with human frailties and relationships. The characters have depth, and women in my films are not mere glamour dolls as they are intelligent and have sense and sensibility.''
And she adds : `` In Indian cinema, stories have always been told from the male point of view, but the trend is changing and the woman's point of view is being accepted.''
"Armaan," she says, is a film about individual hopes and dreams and it tells us the extent to which a son goes to fulfil his father's dream.
"Armaan" is set against the backdrop of a corporate hospital owned by Dr. Siddharth played by Amitabh Bachchan, who gets a new look with a mop of silver hair. He wants to make a state-of-the-art hospital where patients from all walks of life can come for treatment. Anil Kapoor is Akash, his son, a neuro-surgeon, who will do anything to make his father's dream possible.
Enter Sonia Kapur (Preity Zinta), a rich, arrogant girl who is the only daughter of a business tycoon, played by Randhir Kapoor. She believes that money can buy anything in the world. She falls madly in love with Akash. But he is in love with Dr. Neha Mathur (Gracy Singh), an anaesthetist who works in the same hospital. Sonia's father promises funds for the expansion of the hospital if Akash marries his daughter and the film deals with Akash's emotional dilemma as he is torn between love and duty. .
The script, written by Honey, with dialogue by Javed Akhtar is not plot-driven but character-driven.
Honey adds: ``The lead players Amitabh, Anil, Preity and Gracy have essayed their respective roles beautifully. `Armaan' is ideal holiday viewing for the entire family.'' She says it is not a typical Hindi family formula story of traditions, relations and generations mixed together but a simple story of human emotions, jealousy, love, ambition and sacrifice.
According to Honey Irani, people in the industry are already calling her a trendsetter. There have been several women directors before her who had dwelt on various themes but she will be the first woman to handle a big-budget Bollywood film. It was made on a budget of Rs. 10 crores!
Honey Irani ... always keen on storytelling.
Those who have seen the preview in Mumbai are talking about the look and feel of "Armaan," ... the hairstyle of the protagonists, their clothes, the songs, choreography and the camera angles... all seems to be in remarkable sync.
Said Honey Irani: ``I have done the entire film in soft contrast and diffused lighting as it revolves against the backdrop of a hospital. Ravi Varman, my cameraman, was brilliant as he matched white and pastel colours with his lighting.''
The `jugalbandi' song featuring Amitabh and Anil is also said to be another highlight of the film where two leading cinematographers Honey's niece, Farah Khan, and her archrival, Saroj Khan, worked together. The songs penned by Javed Akhtar and tuned by Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy are already on top of the charts. Said an optimistic Honey: ``I really hope my film does well at the box-office. I could not have asked for a better launch pad!'' But the big `if' is whether "Armaan" can kick-start the Bollywood box-office, which is at an all time low. It is after many decades that a story, set against the backdrop of a hospital, is hitting the screens. The earlier ones such as the Raj Kumar-Meena Kumari "Dil Apna Aur Preet Parayi" and Sridhar's classic "Dil Ek Mandir" were all super hits.
Honey Irani plans to take a short sabbatical after the release of "Armaan." Says she, ``My son Farhan is already into his next project `Lakshya' and my daughter Zoya will also debut as a director shortly. So all of us are having brain-storming sessions on various scripts which leaves me little time to think about my next project.''
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