Welcome to Abhishek Kapoor’s art gallery that’s opened up in Kashmir, Delhi, and London. It’s called “Fitoor”, and if you like your art in slow, candescent strokes, this movie is for you. If you like it brisk, brusque, and fast, you oughtn’t tempt your fates or Tates (as Manoj Pahwa’s character in Dil Dhadakne Do might have said.) Director Kapoor, athwart Charles Dickens’ classic “Great Expecations” and modern times, sets his story in Kashmir, and has Noor (Aditya Roy Kapur) as the narrator Pip.
The story opens up with the younger Noor (Mohammed Abrar) living with his sister and brother in-law, and a chance visit to the ostentatious and brooding abode of Begum Hazrat Jaan (Tabu) leads to Noor’s love-at-sighting of Firdaus (Tunisha Sharma). And for the rest of the movie, “Fitoor” traverses Noor’s impossibly unco love, that seems one-sided and lop-sided at the same time. Noor, of course, grows into the perfectly chiseled Aditya Roy Kapur (what protein shakes do they make in Kashmir?), while Firdaus goes to London, and as the Hindi film tradition has been ever since Namastey London, returns as Katrina Kaif.
What happens next is pretty close to what Dickens envisaged for Pip. Taunted and primed by Begum, Noor scars his heart for Firdaus, and then meets her in Delhi – she the aforesaid London import and he on a scholarship, churning out metal art and paintings with equal élan. Abhishek Kapoor sets up his easel to gently walk you through what must sound on paper as a jeremiad of love and longing. Director Kapoor, who co-wrote the screenplay with Supratik Sen, gives the story a longing touch that borders on brooding dark as Noor discovers the manipulations and invisible controls that have steered his entire life, throwing his story into one despairing lurch after another.
Abhishek Kapoor obviously loves this story, and with cinematographer Anay Goswamy and art director Mayur Sharma sets up a canvas so beautiful and breathtaking, it’s easy to look away from the bumps in the journey and hard to look away from the screen. Every frame is filled with such beautifully conceived shots, languorously painted moments, fugitive colors extraordinary, you are left awestruck at his sheer vision of executing such colorful poetry. Right from the artistic fonts for the opening credits to the rich plumage of hues , Fitoor is a visual treat. Mr. Kapoor, take a brush.
Of the cast, Aditya Roy Kapur is pleasantly understated, sometimes a wee bit too much for the supposed passion he’s brimming with. However, he’s close to being nominated as the Emraan Hashmi for alcoholics, and he attacks the drinks and his situation with passion. In a superb scene where he confronts a departing Firdaus with her fiancé, he gets the anger and controlled simmer just right, although was a sudden burst of jingoism necessary? – just as when he’s self-deprecating about his love. As the beautifully untouchable haptic of desire, Katrina Kaif remains as untouched as ever – her emotions are at the tip of her lips (as my answers were in most of my exams), but they never get past the fragile expression of upper class stiffness.
Rahul Bhat as Firdaus’s fiancé from across Pakistan is superbly haughty and polished, while Lara Dutta, Aditi Rao Hydari, Talat Aziz, Kunaal Khyaan are all nicely effective. The child artists (Mohammed Abrar and Tunisha Sharma) are very, very good, lifting the movie to the level of the classic with ease. But Fitoor belongs to Tabu. As Begum Hazrat Jaan, Tabu embraces haughtiness, imperiousness, and mystery with mastery, drawing you into her pain and patina of opium induced madness with an ease that’s unnerving and disturbing. Tabu is on top of her game, not missing a step, ever the manipulator and the coaxer, watching with satisfaction the ruins of her sabotage. In Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations, she’s the first half of the title.
The background score by Hitesh Sonik is very, very right and good. And then there’s the superb glaze of music that Amit Trivedi brushes on this project. He’s in fine Lootera form, and the songs are a superb treat, making you wish for once that they’d keep playing. “Yeh fitoor mera” is dreamy, with nice musical embellishments using haunting violins, echoing vocals of (sigh) Arijit Singh, waltzy drums, and the composer leaves you in a state of dreamy trance. Then there’s the superbly paced, sung, and classical number “Hone Do Batiyan”, with amazing rhubabs and passion, Nandini Srikar and Zeb Bangash making you tilt with their lilt. But the winner is “Pashmina” – lovely lyrics by Swanand Kirkire, brilliant orchestration and tuning, and Amit Trivedi using piano riffs, superb rim shots, and singing the song with a zest and harmony that’s so close to David Crosby’s dreamy and laid back singing. This is solid gold.
Fitoor, then, is an exquisite answer to your expectations, if you have the patience. Else, you just might wonder what the dickens was going on.
Watch the trailer of Fitoor here: