After the success of Border (1997), J.P. Dutta came before the Indian audience with Refugee (2000) whose lead pair at that time was known as AB’s baby (the offspring of Amitabh Bachchan) and Lolo’s sis (the sister of Karisma Kapoor). J.P. Dutta had planned to launch Amitabh Bachchan’s son, Abhishek through a movie – Aakhiri Mughal but due to certain reasons, he had to shelve that project for good and instead he introduced him alongwith Kareena Kapoor, the high-profile daughter of Randhir Kapoor and Babita and the younger sister of the top heroine (those days), Karisma Kapoor.All things said and done, Refugee starts quite promisingly with the first encounter of the debutant hero and the debutant heroine with the illegal crossing of the Indo-Pak border at Bhuj (Rann of Kutch). The heroine belongs to a Muslim family coming from Bangladesh which can be categorized with the Bihari Muslims who had to migrate to the East Pakistan (later turned into Bangladesh) at the time of partition of India. The problems and woes of the Bihari Muslims are very pertinent because the partition did not help them and putting it straight, affected them quite adversely. Still the attitude of the Pakistanis towards them is negative and they look upon them in a derogatory way. Had the well-recognized director concentrated on this relevant issue, he would have made a much better and admirable movie. However he got confused between making a serious movie and a romantic movie. And it’s this confused storyline of the movie which led Mr. J.P. Dutta to fall flat on his face.The hero who calls himself a refugee because he does not have any name except this identity and carries the job of helping the willing people cross the border illegally to earn money, falls in love with the teenager girl of the family whose marriage is the burning issue before the elders. The romantic track is definitely fascinating and the soul-soothing songs have made it all the more attractive and memorable. The dialogues of the movie (penned by J.P. Dutta’s father, O.P. Dutta) are also praiseworthy in this regard. However the rest of the movie is studded with utterly illogical sequences and incidents. The action sequence seems to have been inserted in the movie quite superfluously.The narrative and the treatment of the plot has a clear imprint of the moviemaking style of J.P. Dutta. However it renders a lesson also to the prospective filmmakers that the narrator should be clear in his mind as to what he has to narrate and what should be the logical conclusion of his story. If he himself is not clear about what he wants to convey, how can his product become a good one ?
The actors have done their parts quite well. Jackie Shroff and Sunil Shetty, being the BSF officials of India and Pakistan have done justice to their defectively crafted roles alongwith Sudesh Berry, Anupam Kher and Reena Roy. An actor of the calibre of Punit Issar has been wasted in an insignificant role. However the best performance is definitely of Kulbhushan Kharbanda, the head of the illegally migrated Bihari Muslim family. His dialogue -‘Refugee Hona Koi Gunaah Hai Kya ?‘ (Is it a sin to be a Refugee ?) underscores the path which the movie should have followed to be a meaningful and purposeful one.Now for the young and fresh lead pair which was better known for the family background of its members at that time – Abhishek Bachchan has done well in some scenes and is quite pathetic in some others, i.e., he has delivered a mixed bag of good and bad performances. On the other hand, Kareena Kapoor is so natural as if she were born before a movie-camera. I rate her performance in this very first movie of her as her best till date (even better than that of her in Jab We Met).Cinematography and technical aspects are up-to-the mark. However the unnecessarily intruded action scenes are not that impressive as in the other movies of J.P. Dutta. The length of the movie is also on the higher side. The climax is quite indigestible (Kareena giving birth to a child on the border) and looks ridiculous.
Music is the biggest asset of this movie. The team of Anu Malik and Javed Akhtar has done a memorable job and Anu Malik quite deservingly won the national award for the best music director for his work done for this movie. The song Panchhi Nadiya Pawan Ke Jhonke is, in my opinion, one of the best twenty Hindi movie songs of all times. The other songs – Aisa Lagta Hai, Taal Pe Jab Ye Zindgaani Chali, Raat Ki Hatheli Par Chaand Jagmagaata Hai, Mere Humsafar Mere Humsafar and Jise Tu Na Mila are also worth listening to again and again.
I recommend this movie to all the fans of Kareena Kapoor and others too who are interested in watching a lovely love story blossomed on two different sides of the Indo-Pak border containing heart-soothing memorable songs.
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