Shararat (2002)
Directed by Gurudev Bhalla

Artistic & Entertainment Value
* *

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Neha (Hrishitaa Bhatt), a young newspaper reporter, convinces a judge to punish Rahul (Abhishek Bachchan), a spoiled young man who has committed a misdemeanor, by sentencing him to work in an old age home, where he learns valuable lessons about life.

Gurudev Bhalla's Shararat is occasionally charming and even enjoyable, but, unfortunately, it is so deeply flawed that, ultimately, it is a failure.

Whatever its faults, Shararat is, nonetheless, greatly enlivened by the performance of its lead actress, Hrishitaa Bhatt, who really has a wonderful on screen presence. She is stunningly beautiful and charming and brings a vivacity and naïveté a to her role that is reminiscent of the bright, spontaneous energy of such actresses as Audrey Hepburn, Julie Andrews, and Sandra Dee, but which has rarely been seen in Western films since the early 1960s. She is so consistently a joy to watch that while nearly everything else in the film is tiresome and hackneyed Ms Bhatt's presence makes much of Shararat genuinely enjoyable. Unfortunately, her character, Neha, is not the focus of the film's narrative, which revolves around the irritating and uninteresting Rahul. Though her time on screen is limited, each of Ms Bhatt's appearances is a delight, and she enlivens the tedium that surrounds her.

She does little, however, to increase the quality of the film's other performances. The remainder of the cast is either forgettable or annoying. The older actors portraying the residents of the home in which Rahul is made to work are given stereotyped roles, as the crotchety old man with a golden heart, the affectionate grandmother, and the like, and all of them play these parts in utterly conventional ways, failing to endow them with even an atom of interest. Abhishek Bachchan is even worse. His Rahul is a grating, arrogant young man much like many others found in countless other Bollywood films.

Other than Hrishitaa Bhatt, Shararat has few virtues. The songs included in it are consistently mediocre. None are bad, but none are particularly impressive either. The technical quality of the movie is usually acceptable, although there are a number of moments when it deteriorates noticeably. For better or worse, there is simply not much in the film that is memorable.

With a predictable, recycled narrative, stereotyped characters, uninspired songs, and intermittently low production values, Shararat has little to recommend it, except Hrishitaa Bhatt. While she is not the focus of the narrative, Ms Bhatt lends enough charm to Shararat that she makes the film worth seeing.

Review by Keith Allen

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