Review: In FITOOR, Bollywood Places Beauty Above Substance, Again

Editor, U.S. ; Dallas, Texas (@HatefulJosh)
Review: In FITOOR, Bollywood Places Beauty Above Substance, Again
Abhishek Kapoor's Fitoor, a Kashmir set adaptation of Charles Dickens' Great Expectations, marks yet another step on the downward spiral that is the modern Bollywood blockbuster. 

I hate to write lines like that, I've invested quite a bit of time and energy in the cinema of India and have been rewarded by the remarkable quality of many of the films. However, when it comes to the typical, or even atypical, studio romances I find myself let down again and again. It's not that I don't like romances, or even the traditional Bollywood melodrama, it's that the filmmakers and producers have shifted their focus so far from the emotional truth of their stories that they fail to understand what makes a film memorable, instead settling for visually impressive.

The film follows the basic story of Great Expectations very closely, almost to the point of slavishness, which makes one wonder why they bothered to translate it at all. In place of Pip, we have Noor Nizam, played by Aditya Roy Kapur in a performance that is so incredibly uninspired that it makes me think it must've been intentional. As his love interest, in the Estella role, is Katrina Kaif as Firdaus. Rounding out the major roles in the Miss Havisham role is Tabu as Begum Hazrat, the film's only acting bright spot in an inspired performance. The story plays out exactly as you expect it to, and if you're familiar with Great Expectations, there are no surprises for you here. Change the language and the scenery and you've got yourself a movie.

Kapoor's script translates the story to the contested region of Kashmir, a dynamic region that remains a sore spot in Indo-Pak relations. This could have afforded all sorts of dramatic opportunities to the film, however, these were either squandered or horribly and atonally misused in an effort to create drama where drama already existed. What is does allow, and perhaps one of few places where the film succeeds, is for some absolutely brilliant backdrops and visual splendor that could only emerge from what is possibly the most beautiful region of India.

Unfortunately, the snow covered peaks and valleys of Kashmir, in their enveloping whiteness, mimic the film's overwhelming blandness in execution. In Fitoor each character is less engaging than the last, to the point where I wonder if they were directed at all. The two leads add absolutely nothing to the film, instead sapping this timeless story of its drama and injecting a sort of ennui to the proceedings that it doesn't need at all.

Katrina Kaif is notorious for playing party girls on film, the kind of flippant aloof characters that don't require a lot of emotional buy-in from either performer or audience, and she hardly stretches to break that mold here. Her background as a foreign born and raised fashion model of Indian descent has allowed her to inhabit the role of party girl unaffected by a lifetime of Indian social mores. This seems as though it would play to her advantage when playing Firdaus, a character raised in affluence and destined for a life of opulent sameness. However, while that part of her character seems to work, when it is time to attach a soul to this clothes rack of an actress, her efforts, as usual, fall far short of the mark.

Aditya Roy Kapur is sadly even less convincing of a performer in his role as Noor, as he doesn't even manage to fit any part of the role he's given. For the vast majority of the film, Kapur simply steps into frame, delivers his lines with the blankest of expressions, and then stands there waiting for a reaction. This is not the look of desperation or longing that the role requires, it's simply dead air, and Kapur commits the cinema's most abominable of sins, he's boring. However, in true Bollywood fashion, he looks good. Kapur spends probably half of the film with his shirt off, holding his flexes as long as he can - how a struggling artist can have such an absurd physique is beyond me - and looking dumbly at everything around him, waiting for his life to give him meaning, rather than the other way around. It's one of the weakest performances I've seen on the big screen in some time.

The only saving grace among the performers in Fitoor is the showstopping work of Tabu as Begum Hazrat. This is a role that Tabu inhabits completely and delivers the kind of pathos that Kaif probably couldn't even spell with a dictionary in front of here. The lord of the manor whirls from one emotional extreme to the other, pulling the strings in her own little play within the story and keeping my attention for all of her time on screen. Begum Hazrat is, without any question, the highlight of the film and the among the most engaging villains I've seen in Bollywood lately. She knows when to hold back and when to let loose, and her emotional range sadly makes the shortcomings of her co-stars all the more apparent by comparison. I would watch another film with Begum Hazrat at the center in a heartbeat, sadly, I had to watch her in this one instead.

I have nothing to say about the script, the story, or the side characters in Fitoor. With the surprising exception of a solid cameo from Ajay Devgn - not typically an actor I count on for engaging performances - the film holds no excitement beyond the Begum. It's sad that a film based upon a story titled Great Expectations should fail so spectacularly in all the ways that really matter. When I see a film I try not to have too many expectations, I find that they only lead to disappointment, however, with Fitoor I did have hope that I'd at least remain engaged. Sadly, even my hope was a mistake.


  • Abhishek Kapoor
  • Charles Dickens (novel)
  • Abhishek Kapoor (screenplay)
  • Supratik Sen (screenplay)
  • Supratik Sen (dialogue)
  • Aditya Roy Kapoor
  • Katrina Kaif
  • Tabu
  • Rahul Bhat
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Abhishek Kapooraditya roy kapurbollywoodfitoorKatrina KaifTabuCharles DickensSupratik SenAditya Roy KapoorRahul BhatDramaRomance

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