Players: Amitabh Bachchan, Anil Kapoor, Preity Zinta, Gracy Singh, Randhir Kapoor. Theatrical release.
In the make-believe medical world depicted in Armaan, actors unconvincingly utter phrases like “I have never seen a complicated case like this,” and “Nurse, call the doctor,” while betraying an obvious aversion to hospitals. The actors tossing these lines, fortunately, are gifted performers who add credibility and finesse to first-time director Irani’s film about young doctors in love. Based on Dil Ek Mandir, the stirring 1963 medical drama starring Meena Kumari, Armaan has Irani nailing a smartly unusual mainstream drama that examines medical ethics while putting to test both a father-son bond and a nicely packaged romantic triangle.
The father-son team, comprised of the business-minded Dr. Siddharth Sinha (Bachchan) and his gifted physician offspring Akash (A. Kapoor), find the remote hospital they operate besieged by both romance and a life-altering dilemma. Struggling to keep the hospital running, Dr. Akash’s existence gets a jump-start when he attracts the attention of both the new staff doctor Neha Mathur (Singh) and Sonia Kapoor (Zinta), the mega-rich (and fittingly bratty) new patient who promptly casts her many-pronged reach to win over the handsome Dr. Akash at any cost.
In this stylishly laid out film, Irani gets great mileage from having Bachchan’s Dr. Siddharth preside over both the events in his son’s life, and an unfolding bittersweet medical story with superb Shakespearean flair. Kapoor and Singh, well matched as Akash and Neha, also share the casting chemistry. Singh’s make-over, a 180-degree transformation from her village-belle get up in her debut in Lagaan, is nothing short of brilliant, while Zinta’s demanding Sonia mixes a loud order-giver with a pampered, vulnerable kitten with a strange sense of propriety.
Like her son Farhan Akhtar, who scored a sensation with his directorial debut in Dil Chahta Hai, Irani proves with Armaan that she also knows a thing or two about filmmaking.
Aniruddh Chawda writes from Wisconsin, on America’s north coast.