/ produced by Mukesh Talreja & Sunil Manchanda / directed
by Satish Kaushik / starring Salman Khan & Bhoomika Chawla
/ music by Himesh Reshammiya / lyrics by Sameer
a true love story," the film's slogan tells us.
Indeed, the murkiness of TERE NAAM's moral makes it less a tragedy
than a story of really bad luck. But the freshness of the characters
saves the film from sinking beneath the weight of its highly
Mohan (SALMAN KHAN) is the Agra version of the frat boy who
never got over his glory days as an undergrad. Radhe spends
his days hanging out at his old alma mater near the Taj Mahal,
beating to a pulp anyone who offends his sense of moral propriety.
Bullies, overaggressive Romeos, and professors who grade too
hard bow in fear to his Rambo-style revenge, while the audience
applauds. Meanwhile, freshmen quickly
to properly respect this Dawood Ibrahim of the collegiate underworld.
One such fresher is Nirjara (BHOOMIKA CHAWLA), the sheltered
daughter of a local priest. Her innocence some would
call it naivete surprises and charms Radhe, who begins
to court her in much the same way a hungry cat might woo a plump
so preciously ingenuous, Nirjara doesn't realize at
intensity of Radhe's feelings for her. By the time he makes
his intentions (marriage, mutual obsession, total possession)
explicitly clear, she's gotten a firsthand look at his more
violent tendencies. She's also already informally engaged to
her father's protege. She turns Radhe down flat. She's a nice
girl, he's a thug: story over, she tells him.
doesn't take this too well.
he makes a half-hearted attempt to lay off the thuggish behavior,
but hey, there are a lot of bad guys out there just asking for
a thrashing. When one of his assaults ends up helping out Nirjara's
sister, Nirjara's fiance finds out about it, sees the light,
and tells Nirjara it's clear that Radhe is her soulmate. Nirjara
begins to soften, but before she can come to terms with her
feelings for Radhe, Radhe decides to force her through the process,
in a pretty horrific way. At this point, he becomes, hands-down,
the most disturbing anti-hero in recent Bollywood history, hooking
the viewer despite her horror. All she can hope is that the
director doesn't demand too much more moral ambivalence from
the audience before calling it a wrap.
the viewer gets her wish kind of
as the story shifts
to addressing a moral
of. Whether you believe the second half of the film redeems
Radhe or not, one thing's for sure: Radhe's vigilante justice
has targeted the wrong guy, a bigger and badder villain than
himself, and Radhe's going to pay the price for it. Unfortunately,
so will Nirjara.
good tragedies, the hero's greatest strength becomes his fatal
flaw. TERE NAAM
excels in convincing us that the hero's best and worst qualities
are one and the same. We love Radhe for the very reasons we
hate him, which engenders within us both fascination
the hallmarks of a truly excellent film. But after prepping
us for the masterstroke the grand moment in which our
hero will lose his delicate balance between good and evil, and
throw himself into the flames the story
wimps out. Radhe's fate is determined not by his own actions,
but by others'. Instead of a tragic hero, he becomes a victim
of circumstances, the stuff of which ballads, rather than tragedies,
are made. Ultimately,
then, this story lacks the ironic, bittersweet resonance of
the best "unfortunately true love stories."
the brilliance that precedes this narrative failure makes TERE
NAAM obligatory viewing. Bollywood fans are used to obsessed
lovers sometimes scary, as in DARR, and sometimes sweet,
as in TERA JADOO CHAL GAYA. But in the character of Radhe, director
Satish Kaushik has left the judgment up to us: sweet or scary?
The answer is both. Radhe's frightening devotion to Nirjala
is but a different outlet for the same violence that animates
his attacks on wrongdoers. And Kaushik makes it clear, in several
chilling scenes, that the barrier Radhe sets between violent
passion and violent assault is extremely thin and always in
danger of breaking. Therefore
the considerable attraction Radhe exerts affects viewers as
intensely as it does Nirjala: we cannot help but root for this
character, and we cannot help but wonder what this says about
our own moral barometer. Is violence acceptable for any cause,
love and justice included? Depending on the box office's answer,
Radhe may well become the archetype for the 'Angry Young Man'
of the new millenium.
wonders if the character of Radhe would grip us so completely
if we were not aware of the rumored similarities between him
and the actor who plays him. Either way, Salman Khan inhabits
the role fully, with panache and (vaguely disturbing) ease.
The song sequences complement the narrative, intentionally or
no, by articulating the schizophrenic quality of Radhe's nature:
moments after he threatens his beloved's life, he's able to
take her in his arms and cheerfully
her through a love song. Perhaps we'd consider Nirjara daft
for going along with this, save that Bhoomika Chawla invests
her with a genuinely touching simplicity that makes passivity
seem downright noble. She is the archetypal princess in the
tower: whoever climbs up first will have her heart forever.
doesn't make Nirjara a great role model, but then, no one said
TERE NAAM was the film to show your kids to teach them right
from wrong. However, if you're curious about the attractions
of moral ambivalence, or just sick of the same old masala, this
film is more than a "time-pass." Up until that final
third, it's almost a revelation.
reviewed by Meredith