New York, directed by Kabir Khan of Kabul Express fame, has all the makings of a successful film if one just disregards the miniscule fact that the plot is at least five years stale. An endearing story of three friends whose lives meet a tragic fate, New York has it all: romance, humor, drama, heart wrenching pain and of course a mellifluous sound track that one must possess for long romantic drives!
A poignant story of three friends – all gorgeous in their own capacities – Omar (Neil Nitin Mukesh), the fresh off the boat desi boy, Samir (John Abraham), the macho man with the perfect life, and the love interest Maya (Katrina Kaif, as herself really) a charming bubbly pretty girl who completes the triangle. The plot revolves around the male protagonists and the film keeps going back and forth as Neil narrates his experiences at college and his relationship with his two best friends John and Katrina. Their life is all hunky dory albeit with its typical adolescent disappointments of your best bud stealing the girl you secretly love – and lots of lovey dovey songs in between. Neil’s encounter with the insolent FBI officer Roshan (Irrfan) generates some moments of sheer wit that add potency to the script.
Subtle things denote the attention to detail in direction like Neil’s cell phone ringing with the display showing ‘Museebat’- that elicited a lot of laughs in the audience- when Irrfan Khan is calling/pestering him, to the general interchanges between both Irrfan and Neil, even his opening dialogue ‘sir you don’t have to do this bonding exercise with me’ add humor at the most unexpected times in the film and certainly make it a very enjoyable watch.
The story however really takes a jump-start right before the intermission when John dramatically reveals his true identity to a naïve Neil. The next few scenes are powerful and awe inspiring as they reveal the potential that Kabir Khan has unearthed from John, and heart wrenching in the barbaric reality they expose. Moreover, this is where the 9/11 angle and its effect on Muslims living in America really comes into play.
An actor worth mentioning, although in a cameo role is Nawazuddin as the tortured soul Zilgai whose expressions are perfectly timed and executed and his portrayal of his character flawless, so much so, that he manages to shine through the glamour of the young heroes in the film with just a total of 30-40 minutes of screen time. If one thing Bollywood manages to do every time is to excavate these jewels to enhance and blaze the screens (remember Rustom from Munna Bhai or how Irrfan Khan himself started out).
So even though the plot is a bit stale, Kabir Khan manages to work with it and add his own fresh (as fresh as a eight year old plot could be) take from a NRI perspective on it. He also tackles the sensitive issue of the US government’s manipulative and hypocritical policies in the most diplomatic way and although the film’s end is too loose and simplistic Khan tries to project the goodness that Americans – South Asians included – have gained from living there such as (allegedly) values of freedom, liberty, honesty and integrity. Of a culture that Irrfan Khan proclaims allows for a terrorist’s son to be launched onto the shoulders of his football peers and hailed as a hero. Too cheesy and rose-tinted to gobble; had Irrfan not uttered these words in his characteristic sombre way one could have choked – and not from tears!
Despite the inaccuracies in the film – John managing to place bomb detonators onto the FBI building for one – New York is a fairly good attempt. And it’s always good to see Bollywood movies that are attempting to move away from the traditional boy meets girl masala. It’s not as powerful as Shoaib Mansoor’s own take on terrorism and a post-9/11 scenario in Khuda Kay Liye but then it’s Bollywood yaar! – Hani Taha Salim (Rating – 3 OUT OF 5)
Cast and Production Credits
Year – 2009, Genre – Action, Country – India, Language – Hindi, Producer – Aditya Chopra, Yash Chopra, Director – Kabir Khan, Music Director – Pritam, Cast – John Abraham, Katrina Kaif, Neil Nitin Mukesh, Irrfan Khan