KISMAT KONNECTION. Director: Aziz Mirza. Players: Shahid Kapoor, Vidya Balan, Om Puri, Juhi Chawla, Himani Shivpuri, Boman Irani. Music: Pritam. Theatrical release: July 2008.
Ever-expanding Hindi film budgets have more or less kept pace with the brisk growth in the Indian economy. Film houses no longer want to settle for Mumbai sound studios. While blue chip, mega-budget projects can still pick picturesque destinations of their choice (Egypt in Singh is Kinng; Brazil for Dhoom 2), mid-budget destinations of choice are often the United Kingdom (Cheeni Kum), United States (Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna) and now Canada. Snugly fitted into the bustling Toronto cityscape, and tapping into the city’s bursting multi-ethnic energy, Kismat Konnection tosses up a decent romantic comedy that seems a natural fit to its setting.
Betting on the best-looking onscreen match-up since Hrithik Roshan and Aishwarya Rai in Jodhaa Akbar, Rahila Mirza’s story ropes in Kapoor as Raj Malhotra, a newbie architect who arrives in the big city but is clueless as to how to land a job. Destined to miss successful tips every way he turns, Raj’s luckless streak appears to be ending when he runs into a brick wall of trouble named Priya (Balan), a strong-willed activist working for the rights of desi retirees (excellent script tie-in). The career-obsessed Raj literally bumps into the socially-sentient Priya, igniting an oil-on-vinegar run-in that expectedly entangles both of them.
Mirza, who usually works with Shah Rukh Khan (Chalte Chalte, Yes Boss), successfully uses the largest city in Canada as a backdrop. Toronto’s lakefront becomes a quiet destination where both Raj and Priya seek out solitude. Interestingly enough, Priya runs into an eccentric fellow lake-watcher (Irani) who hides a wonderful secret identity. Also along for the ride are Puri as a difficult-to-impress business hot shot, Shivpuri as his hilariously bossy wife, and Chawla as a kooky fortune-teller who befriends Raj. Shivpuri has come along very nicely, thank you, from her famed Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayengethrough-the-window scene with Khan, in which she posed as an older aunty trying on different saris. In Kismat, Khan gets onscreen narrating credit.
Kapoor and Balan are a very plausible screen pair. A scene where they exchange rapid fire “insults” at each other soon after they meet is a delicious throwback to those carefree Doris Day-Rock Hudson comedies from the 1950s. Kapoor is riding the upsurge from his recent successes Jab We Met and Vivah, and Balan is primed for bigger things with her recent hits Bhool Bhulaiyaa and Heyy Babyy. Pritam’s musical score also strikes a nice emotional chord and becomes a calmer counterpoint to his much louder Singh is Kinng. Kismat indeed comes through as a good luck charm.
Globe trekker, aesthete, photographer, ski bum, film buff, and commentator Aniruddh Chawda writes from Milwaukee.