Thursday, July 2, 2009

Alag (2006)
--- science fiction

Dir: Ashu Y. Trikha

It has been well proven of the existence of mankind, that we are not fully utilizing the full potential of the human mind. It goes to explain phenomenon such as psychics foretelling the future, animal whisperers, and why some people are geniuses and others are not. Alag tells one such story of a man who possesses the full potential of the mind, and the complications one would encounter.

Tejas Rastogi has never seen the outside world. His mother died in childbirth, and was raised alone with his father, who kept him in the basement with his only entertainment being thousands of books. He is bald all over, has sensitivity to light, and a strange susceptibility to electricity. The local authorities find him sheltered in the basement, and call for a young woman named Purva Rana. Rana works for a kind of school called the Centre, where young men who have done some criminal acts are taken in for rehabilitation. Purva’s father runs the Centre and takes in Tejas who displays an uncanny intellect.

Tejas soon runs into his school mates, who do not exactly make him feel welcome. Tejas is forced to where a spoon on his nose, which provides him the opportunity to display his miraculous powers. He telepathically draws the spoons on the lunch table together into a shape and bursts it into pieces with a single stray spoon. The kids are astonished, but not amused by his playful display. He is made an outcast again when on a school trip to the woods the security guard Mr. Singh kills a bird for sport and food, but Tejas makes him experience the suffering of the bird. Singh can no longer continue his duties on staff at the Centre. He gets into trouble once again with the school director, Pushkar Rana who is not quite himself due to his wife’s illness. In one more display of his abilities, Tejas helps bring Pushkar’s wife, Purva’s mother, out of the illness and almost instantaneously returns her to health.

At this point, some evil mad scientist type named Dr. Dyer captures Tejas for their own experiments. They take him to a hidden lab where they have him tied to a table. Probing his body, the doctor reveals his nefarious plot to utilize Tejas mind powers for his own. Tejas barely escapes, thanks to the help of Pushkar, Purva, and Mr. Singh coming to his rescue. Singh is killed in the escape attempt, and Tejas destroys the lab but not before Purva is tragically taken down.

Basically, this is a loose Bollywood remake/rip-off of the 1995 Hollywood film "Powder". In exchange for the Jessica Caldwell character who was a surrogate mother we get a love interest in Purva. The film has its interchangeable characters and plot changes, but the most drastic change of course is the age-old Bollywood treatment of interstitial dance sequences, which basically feel like mini music videos. Though these are fun and visually interesting, and do move the story along, American audiences will often raise a Spock eyebrow and whisper WTF. The problem with the film is as Powder was a basic alien visitor treatment made more of a Christ-like parable, Alag is not. It does not know exactly what it wants to be. It could have even taken the route of "The Green Mile", but failed to do so. Instead, it took the main character in too many different directions in such a short time, even going so far to make the film too comic booky toward the climax. It is an interesting experiment to compare the two films, but Alag doesn’t have the cinematic strength to stand on its own.