Director Abhishek Kapoor presents a compelling look at the way money and power influence romance in Fitoor (“Obsession“), his adaptation of Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations.
The scenery and set design of Fitoor are its defining features. From the very opening, one is blown away by the beauty of the setting: a small village in Kashmir with wooden walkways crisscrossing a lake. Everything — from the sky to the snowy ground to the characters’ clothes — is in overcast shades of grey, blue, and white.
Noor first appears in a flashback as an 8-year-old boy (played by Mohammed Abrar), a poor kid with a gift for drawing and sculpting. He helps his brother-in-law Junaid (Rayees Mohiuddin) with some repairs at the mansion of Begum Hazrat (Tabu). The brightly colored tapestries and decorations inside the mansion contrast the drab colors outside, but there’s a run-down quality to the interior. The mansion is a haunted house, with Begum the witch shrouded in a haze of hookah smoke.
Noor falls in love with Begum’s daughter, Firdaus (Tunisha Sharma), immediately upon seeing her. Her clothes are every bit as expensive as Noor’s are disheveled. Begum arranges for Noor to work at the mansion and serve as Firdaus’ playmate. It’s clear that Begum is manipulating Noor, but not to what end. When Begum unexpectedly ships Firdaus off to boarding school in London, the matron tells Noor that he must grow to be a man worthy of her daughter.
Flash-forward fifteen years to the present, and Noor (Aditya Roy Kapur) is an accomplished artist. An anonymous benefactor sets Noor up with a residency at an art gallery in Delhi, where Firdaus (Katrina Kaif) just happens to live. Though she remembers him fondly and enjoys his company, Firdaus’ plans for her future don’t include Noor. He, on the other hand, has a room full of paintings of her face.
There’s a great scene in which Firdaus tears apart the notion that, just because Noor loves her, she must love him in return. When she realizes her insistence that she doesn’t love him is falling on deaf ears, she says, “You won’t understand anything but your love.” Noor’s friend Aarif (Kunal Khyaan) backs Firdaus up: “It’s not like she lied to you.”
Besides love, the other force directing Noor’s life is money. Namely, someone else’s money, which compromises his ability to control his own destiny. A confusing sequence that reveals the truth about Noor’s benefactor feels shoehorned into the narrative. Though it needed more setup, the point is made that Noor will be a puppet until he can afford to pull his own strings.
Kapur gives a solid performance as the flawed lead character, tweaking his smile ever so slightly to communicate a range of emotions. Kaif is fitting match, playing Firdaus as warm but aloof, conveying the sense that she’s also been manipulated by Begum.
Tabu is creepy and hypnotic as the lonely heiress, who no longer sees people as people but as tools. She even refers to her daughter as “my doll.”
Two other supporting roles are worth noting for their quiet excellence: Khyaan as Aarif and Lara Dutta as Leena, the art gallery owner. Their characters attempt to stop Noor from causing a scene at an auction, and they convey their instructions to one another through glances. One brief shot consists of Dutta’s face in profile, the muscle in her jaw clenching. It’s great.
Fitoor is thought-provoking and lovely to look at. If nothing else, the beautiful Kashmir scenery makes for a rewarding trip to the theater.