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Waqt: The Race Against Time

After "Aanken," Gujarati writer Aatish Kapadia and director Vipul Amrutlal Shah team up for much more conservative fare in their second Hindi collaboration. "Waqt: The Race Against Time" is a belt-and-braces Bollywood family drama -- from its six musical numbers to megastar Amitabh Bachchan in the father role -- pitched squarely at Indian auds.

Cast:
With: Amitabh Bachchan, Akshay Kumar, Priyanka Chopra, Shefali Shah, Boman Irani, Rajpal Yadav. (Hindi dialogue)

After their smartly plotted and played caper pic, “Aanken” (2002), Gujarati writer Aatish Kapadia and director Vipul Amrutlal Shah team up for much more conservative fare in their second Hindi collaboration. “Waqt: The Race Against Time” is a belt-and-braces Bollywood family drama — from its six musical numbers to megastar Amitabh Bachchan in the father role — pitched squarely at Indian auds, both at home and overseas, who like their entertainment traditional. For Western viewers, pic just gets by on its unabashed charm and minor wrinkles to the formula.

Paperweight plot spins on the old chestnut of father-son love, with the Big B bringing a thankfully light touch to the role of Ishwar, a wealthy toy manufacturer whose shameless spoiling of his son, Aditya (Akshay Kumar), has resulted in a guy who couldn’t boil an egg without a servant. Ishwar wants to marry Adi off to his best friend’s daughter, but without telling his parents, Adi has already married Pooja (Priyanka Chopra).

Worse, Pooja turns out to be the daughter of Natu (Boman Irani), an old enemy of Ishwar who’s always teasing him about his son’s uselessness. The verbal sparring between Bachchan and Irani, as the two are forced to get along now that they’re family is a consistent delight among the somewhat formulaic plot mechanics of the script (adapted from Kapadia’s own Gujarati legiter).

Just prior to intermission, Ishwar finally decides to get tough for his son’s own good, kicking him out of the house and forcing him to stand on his own two feet. Twist is that dad secretly has cancer and only nine months to live.

Second half runs along regular lines, with Adi and the now pregnant Pooja living in a summer house on the grounds and Ishwar torn up inside every time he bawls out his son. Adi tries to make a go of it first as a movie stuntman and then by entering a talent contest.

More cynical Western viewers may wonder why the father is so attached to a self-centered, rich-kid hunk like Adi and the equally spoiled Pooja. But the formula’s the thing here, and traditional Asian values the name of the game. Since opening April 22, this first production sortie by distrib Eros Intl. looks likely to become a solid success with local and NRI auds.

Aside from Bachchan and Irani, there’s some nicely gauged playing by Shefali Shah (helmer Shah’s wife) as Adi’s stricter mom, as well as running jokes like the family’s over-literal servant that show off writer Kapadia’s nicely turned dialogue. Songs by Anu Malik aren’t immediately memorable, but their staging — a splashy holi number, a Moroccan holiday outing — is consistently above par.

Lensing is generally fine, though Chopra has been more flatteringly lit in other pics. “Waqt” literally means the time left to live.

Waqt: The Race Against Time

India

Production: An Eros International (in U.K., U.S.) release of an Eros Entertainment, Entertainment One presentation of a Blockbuster Movie Entertainers production. (International sales: Eros, London.) Produced by Vipul Amrutlal Shah. Directed by Vipul Amrutlal Shah. Associate director, Vinit Om Shipuri. Screenplay, Aatish Kapadia, based on his play "Aavjo vhala fari malishu."

Crew: Camera (color, widescreen), Santosh Thundiyil; editor, Shirish Kunder; background music, Uttank Vora; song music, Anu Malik; lyrics, Sameer, Kapadia; art director, Omung Kumar; sound (Dolby Digital), Anup Dev; action director, Abbas Ali Moghul; choreographer, Remo. Reviewed at Vue West End 3, London, April 28, 2005. Running time: 153 MIN. (I: 74 MIN.; II: 79 MIN.)

With: With: Amitabh Bachchan, Akshay Kumar, Priyanka Chopra, Shefali Shah, Boman Irani, Rajpal Yadav. (Hindi dialogue)

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