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"Lakshya"

A couple of things come to mind while watching Farhan Akhtar's second and much awaited venture! That it is marvellous without being obvious, patriotic without being jingoistic, calmly confident without being brash, that it could have possibly been inspired by "An Officer And A Gentleman!" But over and above all these is the fact that Farhan's narrative style and characterisation are extremely self-assured. And "Lakshya" proves that "Dil Chahta Hai" is no flash in the pan.

Many are the films that start well but never find the wherewithal to come to a decent, convincing conclusion — but in "Lakshya" it is a story that is not only well told but also brought to proper fruition without drama and without too much fuss.

Yes, it is at a pace that is slow, unhurried — some may even find it a bit dragging. But this is not a film to be seen for its speed or pizzazz. For many, it takes a lifetime to mature and here Karan Shergill (Hritik Roshan) the protagonist, has just about three hours to show the process of growing up and finding life's mission where the transition is gradual and insidious. Where before your eyes an aimless, but nice boy finds something worthwhile to do, the changes so imperceptible that by the end, you have unquestionably accepted the man he has grown into. This is something you cannot prise open in a hurry! Kargil — the war that is still fresh in the minds of most Indians is the place where Karan Shergill comes to on an assignment, through events that are not by design. He is from an affluent family and his only worry is whether his brother would be able to send him DVDs. While his friends discuss what they would do after college, Karan has no clue to what he wants to do.

His girlfriend is Romilla Dutta (Preity Zinta) who is self-motivated and interested in many things, including organising protest marches! She loves him yes, but is unable to understand how he can be so vague about everything.

When one of his friends boasts about joining the army, Karan on an impulse decides to do the same, much against his father's wish.

At the Indian Military Academy, Dehra Dun, life is no bed of roses. From getting up at the crack of dawn to the tough exercises to punishment for disobedience, Karan finds life hard. He runs away and fulfils his father's prophecy of ``he will return in four days." Romi appalled and walks out on him telling him that marriage to him would a disaster.

Something Karan did not bargain for. Angry with himself, he goes back to the Academy and agrees to any punishment for `breach of discipline.' Turns out that he is one of the best, while passing out of the Academy. He is then assigned to the border area - the LOC to be more precise — where his Area Commander is (Amitabh) a man who takes intense pride in protecting the country against intruders and hostile forces from across the border. And the sight is something he will never forget. That is when Karan starts the process of finding himself as well. Romi is now a TV correspondent and comes to the Kargil region to provide coverage. Her perspective about Karan also undergoes a change.

With its strong script (Javed Akhtar) this is one film that also has technical excellence. Cinematographer Christopher Popp shows Ladakh in a fresh perspective, evident even as the innocuous looking credits roll right at the beginning! His command over some of the scenes is particularly noteworthy - especially the ones with Lt. Shergill and his men climbing a sheer cliff to capture the intruders. Lakshya is probably the best of Hritik. His performance is nothing short of tremendous. Preity Zinta as Romilla is just about adequate. There is a certain zing that is missing and her hairstyle does not help. Amitabh gives a quiet but self-assured performance, even if he looks a bit too old, while Om Puri and Amrish Puri don't have much to do.

Boman Irani as Karan's father stands out just as Sharad Kapoor, Raj Zutchi and Sushant Singh. Music by Shankar-Ehsan-Loy is beautiful in parts, with songs not having a particularly special identity. But the scoring in certain portions expand and fill the frames in true patriotic flavour. In a word, inspiring.

CHITRA MAHESH

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