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PAAP. Director: Pooja Bhatt. Players: John Abraham, Udita Goswami, Mohan Agashe, Gulshan Grover. Music: Anu Malik. DVD (WEG).

Pooja Bhatt’s better films have, coinciden-tally, all been remakes. Daddy was like Irreconcilable Differences, Dil Hai Ke Manta Nahin was Raj Kapoor’s Chori Chori redux, and Sadak was Taxi Driver incarnate. For her directorial debut Paap, Bhatt reaches for yet another Hollywood entry—the Harrison Ford thriller Witness—to deliver a low-key romantic thriller.

Sent to Delhi by her conservative Buddhist community from the Himalayan foothills, Kaya (newcomer Goswami) must accompany back to her village a young boy pre-divined to great Buddhist glory. Kaya’s plans go haywire after the boy-prodigy secretly witnesses a politically-charged murder. With the help of a well-meaning cop (the hunky Abraham), Kaya must make the suddenly dangerous journey to safely deliver the boy home.

Director Bhatt has a keen sense for visual flair and captures the magnificent Arunachal Pradesh backdrop and dry up-country vistas. While the almost frame-by-frame recounting of the original story takes away some of the suspense, there are still enough script nuances.

What the story lacks in originality, the soundtrack makes up with great gusto. Highlighted by Rahat Fateh Ali Khan (yes, the master’s son) doing the haunting Man Ki Lagan, Anuradha Paudwal’s punching in with the beautiful Intezar signature tune, and Ali Azmat (by way of popular Pakistani pop group Junoon) going solo on the rain song Garaj Baras, this score is a keeper.

Even though newcomer Goswami’s blow-dried looks at times give her an out-of-place highlands-babe look, Bhatt cashes in on boy-toy Abraham’s still-smoldering, hot sex appeal. He has learned fast and drops his shirt at but a moment’s notice. A cool feather in director Bhatt’s cap was Paap screening at a Karachi film fete, becoming that rare Hindi flick allowed to be officially screened in a country where Hindi films unofficially rule. Not a bad start for Pooja Bhatt!

Aniruddh Chawda writes from Wisconsin, on America’s north coast.

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