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a88e45b2d70c8668cc7e834fe69398fa-2WAQT. Director: Vipul Shah (Aankhen). Players: Amitabh Bachchan, Akshay Kumar, Priyanka Chopra, Boman Irani. Music: Anu Malik. Theatrical release (EROS).

In this clever Aatish Kapadia story, the title’s sub-text, “A Race Against Time,” mischievously winks at a time bomb ticking away somewhere off-screen. Bachchan and Kumar, who earlier teamed up with director Shah for Aankhen, here dive into a generational schism. Balancing an elevated father-son feud with first-rate comedy, Waqt makes for commendable viewing.

A wealthy father (Bachchan) and spendthrift son (Kumar) come to odds when the father withholds the son’s privileges to imprint frugal habits on the pampered offspring. What is otherwise merely a 2-plus-hour long discourse on anger management, however, is rescued by the Irani’s comic infusion. Gifted new arrival Irani, reminiscent of Deven Verma’s self-deprecating style, goes one-on-one with Bachchan and comes out unscathed. After his delightful comedy in Munnabhai MBBS, Irani convincingly conquers his role here.

Kumar’s dishy fiscal self-exorcism, meanwhile, provides solid meat that grounds the story. Threatened with downward mobility, he must “sell” his hunky torso to the highest bidder in a tongue-in-cheek jab at platonic male prostitution. Keeping Kumar company in cheesy fashion is Chopra as the clueless love interest who is “forced” to go down-market and negotiate both a tattered dress and a prolonged, third trimester pregnancy—shocking, I tell you, just shocking!

In addition to being a sizable hit in India, with Bachchan’s heavier-than-usual promotional boost, Waqt has managed a very decent $500,000 (and counting) gross in the United States. With the box office jingling for several recent Hindi releases stateside, including Black, Kaal and Bunty Aur Babli, 2005 is on par to become the highest grossing year for Indian films in the United States. That’s news worth celebrating.

—Aniruddh Chawda

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