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Review: Waqt: the Race Against Time (2005)

Director: | 180 minutes | | Actors: , , , , Boman Irani, , ,

What a great invention, such a break from those three-hour Bollywood films. You can stretch your legs, get a snack or a drink … or just leave the cinema. The latter is recommended in the case of “Waqt”. At least when you leave during the intermission you still have the image of a smooth and satisfying movie in your head and you can imagine that the rest is just as good. This is not the case in reality. Not that the whole second half is a , but the last hour is certainly a big downward spiral. Unless you like (very) thick melodrama, it is not advisable to sit until the end. Really all registers are pulled open here, in a cringe-worthy finale that becomes so absurd that this almost seems to be a spoof.

And that while it went so well for a long time. The first thing that (positively) stands out is the natural, relaxed play of father and son. However artificial and ridiculous the situations will become later, it helps immensely that these characters, purely because of the way in which they are portrayed, come across as real. We immediately believe in the bond between the two when we see them conspiratorially joking about Aditya’s mother, derisively dubbed “Mother India” at the beginning of the . Clearly, Dad doesn’t act and feel like a father so much as a friend, a buddy. While his son does not want to take responsibility and is only too happy to be pampered by his rich father, Dad seems to want to hold on to his (second) childhood. In addition, he thinks his son should reap the benefits of his hard work. After a personal crisis, however, Dad realizes that it is important for his son to learn (quickly) to stand on his own two feet. This news only falls a bit cold on the roof of the spoiled Aditya.

This treatment of the Indian patriarchal system is interesting and the way in which the relationship between father and son and later the break in this relationship is portrayed by the two actors is credible. Veteran Bachchan, or the big “B”, as he is also called, lives up to his reputation and finds good counterplay from Akshay Kumar. But the script is also responsible for the subtle approach to dramatic plot points in the first half of the film. For example, the important moment, when son is evicted from home, does not take place by means of a large, melodramatic scene, but is the extension of a relatively comical role-play.

But at least as much of an impression as father and son, Akshay’s mother, Sumi, played by Shefali Shah (previously featured in “Monsoon Wedding” (2001)). She gives a nuanced “performance”, with a range of emotions ranging from strict (yet fair) to tender.
Humor is an important aspect in the first half of the film and comes mainly from the interaction between Bachchan and Boman Irani, who plays Ishwar’s “rival” and (future) brother-in-law, and between Irani and Rajpal Yadav, who, like the dry, but brain-dead servant of Ishwar and Sumi, drives everyone mad. In the first case, the humor lies in the way Irani Bachchan always tries to outdo Bachchan in his (big) news, invariably starting with: “That’s nothing, I have a brother / uncle / aunt / who…”. This to the point of absurdity. For example, when he is pushed into the pool by Bachchan, Irani replies: “That’s nothing yet, my uncle once pushed me into the sea”. Because of the skilled actors, these situations often work better than they should. The Irani Yadav interactions, in which the former gets on his nerves more and more often and faster due to the reactions of the latter, work especially well in the beginning of the film. Halfway through and towards the end, the idea is milked out too much and the (visual or verbal) jokes are also a lot less successful, which makes them irritate.

Most annoying, however, are the easy, sometimes illogical contrasts and conflict situations that arise, just to create dramatic tension, allowing the film to later bring everyone back together in a grotesque, tear-pulling finale. Here we see Aditya standing on a talent stage, holding a toy giraffe (his father is a toy maker) while giving a touching speech to his critically ill father, whom he hated until recently, but for whom he now wants to ask for a minute of silence . In addition, Aditya’s wife Pooja is about to give birth. You can guess how it will end.

The problem in the last hour of the film is that everything is so blatantly, dramatically, brought to a head that it no longer comes across as believable and is just too flashy.the feeling is played. The film certainly contains subtle and well-functioning and acted moments. That is why it is all the more annoying that the film is hindered by too often repeated plot elements (such as the question whether Ishwar will still see his grandson), too much cheesy dialogue and scenes and too easy (melo) drama. Fortunately, the numbers are reasonably successful and, although they are not always necessary (from a narrative point of view), they offer colorful diversion. Just a shame about the second half.

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