Not quite Ash-es to Ash-es

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Not quite Ash-es to Ash-es

Aishwarya's 'comeback' film, the hugely-hyped Jazbaa, proves to be a damp squib. But don't write her off. Yet

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Published: Fri 23 Oct 2015, 12:00 AM

Last updated: Fri 30 Oct 2015, 10:59 AM

Expectations, thanks considerably to the publicity overdrive, were sky-high. The Sanjay Gupta-helmed Jazbaa was expected to reboot the career of Aishwarya Rai Bachchan. Moreover, the thriller had several upbeat factors going for it: high drama in a courtroom, the presence of the flavour of the season, Irrfan Khan, and the slick storytelling style which is the calling card of its director.
Over the opening weekend, ads in newspapers proclaimed it had received an outstanding response in the Middle East. In India, trade vigilantes reported that Jazbaa, an adaptation of the Korean film Seven Days, had drawn a tepid response across the nation. Reviews ranged from unqualified praise to hostile downers, especially about the script's bombastic dialogue.
Politely, you could call Jazbaa a disappointment both on the quality count and the box-office takings. By contrast, Meghna Gulzar's Talvar has met with a far more positive response, although not without barbs that it tends to be partisan in defence of the convicted suspects, the parents of the slain Aarushi Talwar, and their household help Hemraj Banjade.

THE COMEBACK THAT FELL FLAT: Aishwarya Rai Bachchan in Jazbaa (left), an adaptation of the Korean film Seven Days (centre) - though one reckons director Sanjay Gupta would've fared far better if he'd opted to obtain remaking rights to the American TV series The Good Wife (right) and cast Ash as its titular character instead
In any case, Talvar is technically taut, leagues ahead of Meghna Gulzar's own initial jabs at filmmaking with Filhaal and Just Married. By contrast, Sanjay Gupta depends excessively on brain-boggling, frantic editing and shots of Mumbai city with the mandatory clouds sprinting, in fast motion, across the skyline. Emotional content (which the title Jazbaa indicated) is perfunctory and frequently over-the-top with La Bachchan coerced into hysterics.
Courtroom dramas do need a revival in Bollywood. A dekko at the ultra-cool and seamlessly crafted American TV series The Good Wife would be an excellent reference point. How you wish Gupta had obtained its remaking rights instead, casting Aishwarya Rai Bachchan in the title part and Shabana Azmi as her feisty colleague at a law firm!
The snag is that when the producer-cum-director isn't ransacking Hollywood feature films like Quentin Tarantino's Reservoir Dogs (mangled into Kaante) and Oliver Stone's U-Turn (Musafiir), he seems to have a kink about going the Korean way. Earlier case in point: Zinda cadged from Park Chan-wook's Oldboy.
In Jazbaa, most of the actors seem to be under the weather. That includes Shabana Azmi, in a thankless supporting role. Surely India's most accomplished actress deserved a better deal. As for Aishwarya Rai Bachchan's comeback act, it required superior writing rather than excessive footage.
From the look of things, Irrfan Khan has emerged as the film's sole winner. As a Dirty Harry-like cop who doesn't care about the rulebook, his emotive efficiency cannot be faulted. Indeed, he is the only reason to watch Jazbaa, if at all. The actor has been in pitch-perfect form ever since Mira Nair's The Namesake in 2006.
Now, the somewhat unfair buzz is: where does the Jazbaa crash leave Aishwarya Rai Bachchan? Down but not out, I'd say. At the age of 41, she's at a juncture where she can enact women of spleen and substance. Easier suggested than achieved, perhaps. But just check out Tabu in Drishyam. She is back in the fold with a sudden impact. Leading ladies Preity Zinta and Urmila Matondkar, who appear to be on temporary leave, also need to return in carefully selected projects.
LAURELS GALOREAishwarya Rai Bachchan has won several awards, over the years, including two Filmfare Awards and the Padma Shri by the Government of India in 2009
The brothers the most beautiful woman in theworld, she was crowned Miss World in 1994-which kickstarted her career in film 
She was also awarded the Ordre des Arts et desLettres by the Government of France in 2012
Sridevi did so with English Vinglish to a degree, and like most 'senior' heroines is now awaiting a script she feels is worth her time and effort. Madhuri Dixit, after the no-shows of Dedh Ishqiya and Gulaab Gang, maintains, "I've been listening to quite a few scripts but none of them have excited me so far." A pity, because, ideally, she's big screen material rather than being relegated to the position of an ever-smiling juror on reality shows.
Currently, Aishwarya only has Ae Dil Hai Mushkil on her plate. Going by Karan Johar's track record of styling his heroines - particularly Kajol and Alia Bhatt - she's in safe hands. Also, he has never given his leading ladies subservient parts.
Meanwhile, she continues to lead the way when it comes to endorsing beauty products and, believe it or not, real estate properties.
In terms of cinema, like it or not, her drop-dead gorgeous looks - be it her blues eyes and demure smile - overpower her acting abilities. Yet, she has startled her sternest detractors occasionally with tour de force performances in Mani Ratnam's Iruvar, Sanjay Leela Bhansali's Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam and Devdas, not to forget Ashutosh Gowariker's Jodhaa-Akbar.
Clearly, if she's tenacious enough, there's hope. Fingers crossed, the best of Aishwarya Rai Bachchan is yet to come. 

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