I think a very good case could be made for me lacking what others would consider the proper attitude toward Aamir Khan. I'm sure the Bollywood Fan would agree with this assessment. After all, I committed the cardinal sin of not appreciating him in Hum Hain Rahi Pyar Ke, and then in Dil Chahta Hai my favorite performance was actually that of Akshaye Khanna! Horrors! When others have raved about his adorableness, I haven't been able to see it, mostly because I entered Hindi films when he looked like this:
So, what would it take for my hardened heart to fully appreciate the actor who took himself the most seriously of his generation? Why, a masala film, of course! And not just any masala film, but one of the pulpiest of the new millenium.
That's right, I'm talking about Fanaa (Annihilated by Love), the 2006 film starring Aamir, Kajol, Rishi Kapoor, and Kirron Kher. And it. Is. AWESOME. (Also, available on Netflix Instant Viewing. I'm not paid by them or anything [although I totally should be; I'm such a sucker] but I feel obligated to make these things know for the other U.S.-based Bollyjunkies out there.)
Here's the setup: Zooni (Kajol) is a blind Kashmiri girl sent to New Delhi with a group of other girls to do a song-and-dance number for Independence Day celebrations. (Lovely Lilette Dubey plays their chaperone, and it's always nice to see her in a non-Jazz role.) While there, they meet a tour guide named Rehan (Aamir) who flirts hard-core with Zooni and sings praises to God in her honor. The two quote couplets at each other--see the Bollywood Fan's post on it to more fully appreciate their exchanges--but given his haircut it's a good thing Zooni can't see him. It isn't till he sees her performing (the appropriately colorful number "Des Rangila," or "Colorful Country"), though, that Rehan falls for Zooni. He takes her on a sensory tour of the city, and she falls in love with him, too. However, Rehan's hiding a terrible secret that drives the two of them apart, leading Zooni to believe Rehan is dead. When they reunite by chance seven years later, after Zooni's eyesight has been restored by MAGICAL MASALA MEDICINE, that same secret could destroy Zooni, her family (including her dad--Rishi!), and Rehan too.
Kajol is totally awesome as Zooni, by the way. She's equally capable of playing a naive, sheltered blind girl in the big city for the first time and a mature (seeing) mother in circumstances beyond her control. Plus, she looks gorgeous.
In my opinion, though, it's Aamir as Rehan who ends up stealing the show. From his playful flirting in the first act--and the "Dekho Na" scene, which is kinda superhot for a Hindi film, see for yourself--
to his broken, desperate flailing post-intermission, looking for a way into the world he wants and out of the life he was born to, he makes Rehan utterly sympathetic and even believable, which is asking a lot given the script.
Because yes, like I said, it is total masala. Improbable medical cures, hidden identities, superfluous characters, songs, and all. Basically, it's up to Aamir and Kajol to sell the story, and they do, both separately and together--especially together. Rishi Kapoor and Kirron Kher are really cute as Zooni's parents, too.
Here's an observation that might be spoilery (skip to the next paragraph if you haven't seen it! Do it now!): I've seen some compare Fanaa with Dil Se, but really I found Dil Se to be not romantic in the slightest, which is pretty much the opposite of my impression of Fanaa. The only similarity I see is this: both Meghna and Rehan are already the walking dead in their own minds. Rehan just fights it harder, or doesn't know it as well.
The soundtrack is full-on beautiful, from the previously-mentioned "Dekho Na" ("Just Look") to "Mere Haath Mein" (which I can't seem to find a direct translation for? Does it mean "Holding My Hand?") to the tongue-twisting "Chanda Chamke" ("The Moon Glittered").
The production values are high, with the exception of a certain green-screen cliff dive and a certain helicopter explosion. The little kid is supposed to be seven. He looks four and talks like he's three. (Note: typically developing seven-year-olds do not refer to themselves in the third person like little Kashmiri Elmos.) Also, here is the famous hand double for the egg cracking:
Phew! Good thing they got somebody to cover for her. I wonder if that's the sort of thing you can put on your resume: "Fanaa: Stunt Double for Kajol, Egg Cracking." I can't imagine having to crack egg after egg, take after take--oh wait. Yes I can. I DO IT EVERY DAY. FOR BREAKFAST. For Pete's sake.
(I asked my husband if Kajol's lack of culinary skills reduced his crushing on her. His response: "I cook for you almost every night anyway. At least she can hire someone." Darn it.)
Anyway, in case it isn't obvious, I totally recommend Fanaa. It's worth every penny, especially for Aamir.