A Tribute to Lakshya

November’s release Rockstar defied a lot of myths. The Indian audience, which is blamed for not rising beyond the trash they are used to and hence forcing the film makers to continue making the same, showed that they can be discerning enough to see the honesty and sincerity in one’s effort and embrace a film despite all its flaws. It reminded me of another such film which might not have met the stupendous box office success that Rockstar did, but over the years has earned a cult following almost equal to its director’s first film.The film is LAKSHYA.

“Romi’s father: Main tumhein aaj ka program nahi puch raha. Zindagi ke baare mein puch raha hun ?
Karan: Zindagi. You mean LIFE !”

To be very honest, I did not like the film on my first viewing. It seemed a big let down compared to the director’s promising debut. But there were a few scenes which hooked me and made me watch the film all over again only for those five six scenes; the primary being the epic rock climbing scene. If you listen carefully to the background score you will realize that Excel used the track again for the title song of Rock On. The best part of the scene is of course the ending when the camera zooms out to show a wide shot of the entire mountain and the tiny projection on which the soliers have settled down. We hear Trilok Singh complaining “Neeche dekhne se chakkar aata hai” to which his senior replies “Ek kaam kar. Neeche mat dekh”. The signature Laksha Theme plays in the background.

“Romi:Dilli kab a rahe ho ?
Karan: Kyun?
Romi:Humein milna chahiye.
Karan: Saare faisle tum nahi kar sakti Romi. Humein nahin milna hai yeh faisla tumne kiya tha. Ab humein dobaara milna chahiye ya kabhi nahin yeh faisla main karunga.”

It was on my second viewing of the film that I realized the nuances in the potrayal of characters. Lakshya is perhaps the best love story I have come across. Two lovers don’t separate because of the entire world trying to pull them apart. It is usually ego-hassles which prevent us from reaching out to the other person all the time expecting him or her to make the first move.And the by the time we realize things its always too late. The following scene (which I can never grow tired of watching over and over again) has Karan coming to Romi knowing very well that this could be last time they are meeting. He wants to hug her and make up for all the lost time. But he is also aware that he is in front of his seniors and colleagues and has to hold back. Just sharing their silences,they convey everything to each other.

“Karan:To fir jung kyun hoti hai?
Pritam Singh: Sahb banane waale ne to ek dharti banai thi. Par insaan ke lalach ne ispe lohe aur barood se lakeerein kheench di.Wo tera. Yeh mera. Main shukar karta hun ki chaand aasmaan par hai. Dharti par hota to yeh log uske bhi tukde kar lete.”

One major complaint that many people had with the film was the miniuscle parts that Big B and Om Puri played in the film. Honestly it is not the length of the role but the impact it makes that matters. And this holds true for the entire ensemble- Sharad Kapoor, Raj Zutshi, Sushant Singh, Aditya Shrivatava, Sanjay Singh, Abir Goswami, Shakeel Khan, Prashant Chinani who form important strokes of colour in this amazing canvas.A major reason why we love Lakshya is the reality with which the Indian army was depicted (except the lip-sync song “Kandhe se milte hain kandhe”). All of us must have dreamt at one point or the other about wearing the olive green uniform, holding a rifle and scaring the daylights out of the enemy on the battlefield. The dreams that we can’t fulfill in real life are realized through movies. Thats the reason I visit lakshya again and again. When Hrithik enters the Military Academy he is a misfit in its disciplined environment. And this leads to several comedy of errors.

But not for once has the director or the actors gone overboard in the potrayal of these scenes. They have maintained the restrain and composure that people generally would in such institutions and thereby earned the respect of the viewers. What else ? The Drill Instructor at IMA, Subedar Srivardan, is in fact a real-life instructor. Besides, a vast majority of the non-speaking Army roles in the film were filled by real-life soldiers of 13th Battalion,The Punjab Regiment. No other film made on the Indian Army is perhaps as much believable. Just watch this scene. Goosebumps !!!

“Romi: Karan don’t feel so bad yaar. Parents kabhi kabhi gusse mein aisi baat keh dete hain jo unhe nahi kehni chahiye. Magar unke dil mein kuch nahi hota.
Karan: Dil ke andar kisne dekha hai ? Main to woh sununga jo aap keh rahe hain aur woh dekhunga jo aapne kiya hai.”

If Lakshya is the best love story I have come across its also the best movie to have portrayed father-son relationship correctly. It is so easy for a son to hug and confide to his mother. But an invisible wall comes up in between when it comes to opening his heart out to his father. Boman Irani might be remembered for a Munnabhai or a 3 Idiots, but I consider this as his best performance till date. Recall the scene when he talks to Hrithik after he has run away from the IMA and come back home. Here’s a father who is disappointed with a son who can’t even take a cue from his elder brother well settled abroad. But he knows that being mad at him won’t help the cause, and like all fathers he lets reason and rationale do the talking. There’s not one person who does not get reminded of a similar situation in his life while watching that scene.

Then there’s the scene where Hrithik returns home for vacation from Kargil, dressed in the uniform, he is proud to see his son turn over a new leaf. But he does not go ahead and welcome Hrithik home unlike his wife.He just looks at him from a distance with a feeling mixed with awe, surprise and perhaps a tinge of embarrassment for having given up on him so fast and being proved wrong. Equal credit also goes to Hrithik for playing his part as the subdued son equally well. The cherry on cake, however, is the following scene. Reportedly, Hrithik wanted to cry over here, although it was not a part of the screenplay. Farhan gave him complete freedom to go by his instincts.It is because of such mutual trust between the director and his actors that made the film rise several notches above the script.

“Karan: Kai baar mujhe bhi khayal aya ki kal tak kisi gaon mein zindagi kya hogi aur aaj… Wo dekho. Saamne school ki ek building hai wahan. Saare officers thehre hain. Wo gaon ke masjid… wo panchayat… ab wahan koi nahin.
Romi: Badal gaye ho tum. You have changed.
Karan: Tum nahi badli ho kya ?”

The discussion can’t be complete without a mention of Hrithik’s performance. This was his first slice of life film, and in his own words, his most subtle performance till date. The reactions were extreme. Some people believed he had over acted in several parts especially the first half. His superlative performance in Koi Mil Gaya (2003) was still fresh in people’s minds and comparisons were inevitable. But for an actor barely 4-5 years into the industry, I rate this as amongst Hrithik’s all time best. He underplayed himself amazingly in several scenes. For instance, take the scene where he is being consoled by his colleagues at night in the hostel after being punished by the company commander for his inattentiveness during the training. He might have been scolded several times in his life, but this humiliation was too much for him to bear. He does not want to give a hint to his friends about this and tries to maintain the cool and casual image he carries all the time. But the way he looks down all the time playing with his fingers, unable to concentrate upon what his friends have to say, conveys all that is going on inside him.

Or take the climax of the film,where he is limping his way to the edge of the peak to hoist the tricolour. The more said, the less.The most discussed scene of course was the one where he points peak 5179 to Priety telling her that he has finally found his “Lakshya”. A large part of the audience felt he had gone overboard in emoting it and had completely destroyed the impact the director wanted to achieve through the use of silences in that scene. But repeated viewing of the film has, over the time, made me feel otherwise.Of course, it is always open for discussion.

And last, but not the least- Christopher Popp’s cinematography. This Hollywood D.O.P. won all the Bollywood awards that year for his work in Lakshya. The rivetting battle scenes, the silence inside a room filled with Army officers, the song “Main aisa kyun hun” or simply capturing the locales of Laddakh, Popp transports you to the world of these characters never letting technique overshadow the narration (RGV, are you listening?)
Here it goes, for all the diehard fans of this movie, one of the best opening credit sequences ever. Through the eyes of Christopher Popp.

Follow Abhishek Chatterjee on Twitter

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16 thoughts on “A Tribute to Lakshya

  1. This film is so rarely discussed. It is easily one of the most underrated film of the 2000s. The scenes before Hrithik joined the army were so good that the army scenes, though not bad by any means, paled in comparioson. Hrithik was just fabulous as the pampered rich kid. Boman Irani’s best performance in my opinion too. What dialogues! Brilliant! Farhan Akhtar had after Lakshya become the most promising director in Bollywood for me. But sadly he went to on to make Don and Don 2. Just hope Don 3 is never made.

  2. while i agree to a large extent with Lakshya being uncelebrated at the time of its release, i find it odd to compare ti with Rockstar. Lakshya was not flawed, it was a very heartfelt honest attempt, that was a lil out of the time when all that worked was grand family sagas or action. on the contrary, Rockstar is an attempt the tried to chew a lot more than it could handle. It was seriously flawed, save for Ranbir’s performance and the music. And it was a very dismal product from a director who showed immense promise in telling a story honestly.

    i would actually compare Lakshya to Lamhe, another gem that never found acceptance in its time, yet is one of YRF’s most sensitive films. or even the small budget Mithya which hardly many have seen, yet has its own dedicated fan base.

    • As much as you felt that Rockstar was a flawed product, there are umpteen people who have a special feeling towards it and connect at it. Movies like these(Lakshya, Dil Se, Swades, Rockstar, Raavan, Lamhe, Johnny Gaddar etc. etc) are always about connecting to specifics and there can never be distinguished comparisions…

  3. A very well written take on an interesting film Abhishek-welcome to MAM.For me the film slightly tapered off towards the end but otherwise it was a very engrossing film no doubt. Boman Irani was brilliant and even Hrithik as the college kid who’s clueless about his future was very good. Spare a thought also for Prabhu Deva’s imaginatively done choreography for Main Aisa Kyun Hoon-superb!!!

    • Thank you sir. As I was going through the post just realized how many points I left out. A special mention of the song “Kitni baatein..” The Guru Dutt-Waheeda Rehman song “Waqt ne kiya .. Kya haseen sitam” was the inspiration for the way it was picturised. Also a special word for Sushant Singh. He and Hrithik had some great scenes together. The role was initially supposed to be played by Arjun Rampal. I am happy with the final choice. 😛

  4. Welcome to MAM Abhishek….You mentioned a lot of points which i agree upon and definitely its one of the best watch for that year(2004)…

    The cinematography is unmatched and so are the war scenes which took it a notch above of contemporary films like LOC Kargil.

    Hrithik was stupendous in all scenes you mentioned and actually loved AB & Om Puri doing such characteristic roles which had some substance…

    Passionate writing and loved it….

  5. Very late in the day to write here but still I’d write.

    Lakshya is one of my favorites. I’m also fond of the scene where Hritik’s character gets a letter from Zinta’s character and he has to put it in the pocket because lack of time or something. When he is upto something else and remembers about the letter, he pulls out and read and at that moment he comes to know about few things which he did not know earlier. I liked Hritik’s reactions in that scene.

    That scene was good or prolly it’s just me 🙂
    kisiko yaad hai kya?

  6. Am I the only one who watches this movie over and over again ?
    I mean this is the only thing in my life that can change my mood.Even a 45 min overview / glimpse over the movie makes my day wonderful.How many times have people seen this movie = 10 / 20/ 40 / 50 or more than that ?

      • Apologies for commenting on your post so late. Intricately and passionately written. Lakshya is one of the best and underrated films of post 2000. One of my all time favourite films.
        Lots of lovely scenes and moments make it a very memorable. Farhan Akhtar showed with this film ,that Dil Chahta Hai was no flash in te pan. This film shows the evolution of Farhan Akhtar as a director.
        IMHO , this is best performance of Hrithik Roshan. His transformation from an immature and a childish brat to a responsible individual is amazing.
        The phone conversation between Hrithik and BOman is one of my all time favourite scenes.
        Great work buddy. And yes, welcome to MAM.

  7. Its very inspiration movie.my all time favourite movie.i love;my inspiration;amazing dialogue.heart touching story.brilliant acting.Hrithik love u.

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