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"Koi Mil Gaya"

IF ONLY Bollywood was an alien, it could have solved many problems. For if one alien can make a mentally challenged child into a super guy and give him the capacity to perform extraordinary feats, then wouldn't it be nice to have all our mundane problems solved with a touch?



Hrithik Roshan and Preity Zinta in "Koi Mil Gaya".

But then it is as unreal as some of the situations in the Hrithik resurrection film "Koi Mil Gaya". It is a science fiction leaning heavily on films from Hollywood such as Spielberg's "ET" and some fleeting moments from "Close Encounters'" — which is all ok, if the director (Rakesh Roshan) had the guts to carry the theme forward completely. But mainstream cinema being what it is, commercial viability makes compromises imperative and some really silly situations take away from what could have been a truly good film. For Filmkraft Productions "Koi Mil Gaya" has many things in favour of it. Amazing locations, (a lot of which is shot out of the country but passes of for India) Hrithik's sensitive performance and some really cute kids, who don't jar or irritate!

Made at a phenomenal cost by Indian standards and special effects from Hollywood give this film its edge — even though the space ship and its control panel and the alien, look a bit amateurish. But there are several moments of finesse, especially in the reactions of the protagonist and his friends. But when it comes to proving that the same protagonist must get all the attention by making him a kind of a superhero in the latter half of the film things fall into a rut. For instance the vendetta angle by the local heroes. Why would strong, healthy and wealthy men want to pit themselves against a weak, mentally challenged boy? Bullies? Maybe, but to the extent they carry on? Or for that matter the football match where the alien helps a team of kids win against seasoned players? Which competition allows for such lopsided teams to play?

Rohit Mehra is the son of scientist Sanjay Mehra (Rakesh Mehra) who all his life tries to establish contact with the outer world. Just when he is begins to be successful he reports his findings to a group of renowned scientists at the Space Centre who laugh it off. Angry, upset while driving back home with his pregnant wife Sonia (Rekha), he sees a spaceship (shades of "Close Encounters"). He is so excited that he crashes into something and his car explodes. He dies and his wife who survives the accident delivers a boy.

Next thing we know a specialist who declares that his brain is partially damaged in the accident is examining the boy's x-rays, and says he will probably remain mentally challenged. Which essentially means that Rohit when presented to the audience is physically a young man, but has the mind of an 11year-old. His peers have gone on to become adults but Rohit is still in Class VII and his friends are kids who constantly play with him.

Into this scenario enters a vivacious girl Nisha (Preity Zinta) who has recently moved into the lush and beautiful area. Taking the advice of her father seriously that one must be kind to the less fortunate, she starts befriending Rohit. Much to the chagrin of the local bully and self styled Romeo, Raj (Rajat Bedi). After a series of insults and humiliations from a computer teacher and the bullies, Rohit gets Priety to help him learn about the computer used by his father. And in the process of getting familiar, unknowingly sends out a message causing an alien spaceship to land. A few from the ship wander out of the space craft only to scuttle back when confronted with a couple of wild elephants. In the melee one gets left behind. A little, blue mottled creature with a mouth like a fish and eyes like a seal.

Naturally the police and the local authorities represented by Prem Chopra who is the district collector, want to capture anything that reeks of extra terrestrial. What ever came from the ship must be captured, dead or alive they say and soon all of them are on the trail of this poor alien. Rohit is the one who finds this little thing - and Nisha is with him when they confront it. They are excited but scared. They manage to hide it in the outhouse to avoid it being detected.

Jadoo, as they name the alien, soon becomes Rohit's best pal. And with its phenomenal powers, it helps Rohit overcome his handicap, solve Class X maths problems and win a high profile local basketball match against the powerful local team. Don't forget however, that Jadoo is still wanted and is soon captured in a pathetic scene where Rohit is beaten black and blue and Jadoo is wrenched away from him.

Since Jadoo has done so much for Rohit, including making his eyesight normal, he has to save him. He runs, jumps over hillocks, speeds across lonely pathways and breaks into a highly guarded warehouse and grabs Jadoo and drives away in a police jeep, hanging around conveniently. The others race behind him but are always foiled by the ingenuity of Rohit and his pals. And before long, Jadoo is returned to his world. Does he take back all the power bestowed on Rohit? Well, take a look at the film.

Plenty of pathos of the sniffing kind, high drama, impossible feats, chaste romance, songs (Rajesh Roshan) by the dozens, all make up this venture which many will find entertaining. Especially children.

CHITRA MAHESH

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