Adaptations in cinema have always been a tricky business. Dealing with a pressure to reach the audience expectation owing to the familiarity of the source material, the successes are often attributed to the qualities of the source material while the burden of failures inevitably falls on the filmmakers. The idea of success, in critical and aesthetic terms, when it comes to adaptations is often niche and an art house affair where the ‘auteur’-ist vision of the director takes over the source material and generates almost a new text.
Abhishek Kapoor’s Fitoor is an adaptation of Great Expectations by Charles Dickens. And that is probably where things begin going wrong for the film. The bildungsroman by Dickens unfolds over time and manifold narratives. Any one of those strands would have proved sufficient for a 2 hour-long film. Fitoor chooses the love story between Pip and Estella. Firstly, in order to make a film about two lovers from markedly different socio-economic background, there was hardly any need to take any help of world literature and select an English novel from 19th century, especially in Bollywood context. Secondly and more significantly, the film doesn’t stop at that. Losing its sense of focus and any sense of direction, the screenplay rambles on trying to address multiple issues without engaging with any one of those properly.
Writing in the film suffers from further maladies such as glaring lack of logic in spatiality. The narrative moves through various locations such as from Kashmir to Delhi to London. But none of them become a space in terms of its relation to the character or narrative. They remain mere locales or backdrop and replacing any one of them with anything else wouldn’t affect the narrative in one way or the other. In fact throughout its runtime, the film appears unaware of the larger history, both social and political. Kashmir is posited merely as a picturesque and exotic location where escaped terrorists roam in the night, men in uniform move about the streets in broad daylight and are unable to stop bomb blasts, which claim the life of civilians. Oh, and it’s also some kind of Holy Grail which we need to protect from falling into the hands of our neighboring country. Yes, the film also takes the ‘Nationalist’ detour as well!!!
So much has to be said about the writing since the director was certainly working with a cast and crew who knew their trade, barring of course the lead pair! The less one speaks about Aditya Roy Kapoor and Katrina Kaif, the better. They mostly spend their screen time with an apparent expression of Fitoor (obsession), which look more like “how did I exactly end up here?” But the cinematography, production design and music were truly promising. And no one but the director should be blamed for not putting his or her skills to proper use. The frames are reduced to being mere calendar shots, the interiors are devoid of any affect associated with them and the music fails to evoke any emotions mainly due to ill-timed use in the film.
On hindsight, if Fitoor is a failure, it’s a different kind of failure from the run-of-the-mill Bollywood films. The film’s failure is more akin to something symptomatic of contemporary world cinema. These films, and some of them are even hailed by critics and festival juries, mostly suffer from an over abundance of superficial visual aesthetics that almost becomes self indulgent and devoid of any depth. The films are beautiful to look at and that is all there is to it. The latest films by so-called masters like Nuri Bilge Ceylan, Jia Zhangke and Hou Hsiao-Hsien among others have fallen into the same trap. So finally in failure, Abhishek Kapoor is in some great company!
Arup Ratan Samajdar
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