By Tony Schwab, staff writer
“Fitoor,” a new Bollywood film directed by Abhishek Kapoor, is an epic melodrama in all of the worst ways. Its lavish production, soaring score and long runtime all aim to get the viewer swept into the story, but are ultimately extremely distancing.
The story is based on Dickens’ “Great Expectations,” telling the story of Noor (Mohammed Abrar), a boy from a modest family, who falls in love with Firdaus (Katrina Kaif), the daughter of the wealthy Begum (Tabu), a female aristocrat. Noor is separated from Firdaus when she goes to study in London, though they are reunited in Delhi when Noor becomes a famous artist. After far too many obstacles and coincidences are inserted into the plot to test the unshakable power of true love. There is also a poorly inserted subplot relating to the conflict between India and Pakistan over Kashmir.
Played by Abrar, Noor is the most boring type of romantic lead. He loves Firdaus with an obsessive passion that boarder’s on mental illness. Aside from her being around him when he is young, there seems little reason for such infatuation. They have no real common interests and the few conversations they have are hardly intimate. Firdaus is given the choice, always an all or nothing one in such garish films, between romantic love and practicality. Will she marry a respected diplomat or an artist?
Visually, the movie has an expensive plainness common to most big budget love stories. There are multitudes of striking locations in the film, from the snow and the river around Noor as he grows up to the giant parties thrown as Noor succeeds in the art world, but none of them are shot with any creativity. They look pretty much as they would in real life, with a little shine added. Kapoor also chooses to include bizarre slow motion shots at various points, which stick out all the more for being an unnecessary stylistic flourish.
The score very much resembles that of a normal Hollywood film, even though the instrumentation is very different. It makes the intended mood of every scene excessively, abundantly clear. In a movie so devoid of subtlety as “Fitoor,” this seems redundant.
To a certain extent, a film adaptation of Dickens should be unbelievably plotted and full of caricatured characters. These elements are important parts of the original novels. But in the novels, there is never a sense that the characters are shallow or that the plot should be more realistic. Through his beautiful use of language, Dickens creates a world where it seems only natural that things should go as they do. A good adaptation does the same. It is very difficult to draw the line between a magical and a ridiculous plot, or between a simple and a simplified character. All that is clear is that “Fitoor” is the wrong side of both.