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Escape From Taliban

April 2003
Escape From Taliban

The movie is based on the first part of Kolkata woman Sushmita Bandhopadhyay?s 3-part autobiographical novel, Kabuliwalar Bangali Bou (Kabuliwala?s Bengali Wife), the other two parts being Taliban, Afghan O Ami (Taliban, Afghan and Me) and EK Barna-O Mitthe Noi (Not A Word Is False). Sushmita, who falls in love and elopes with Jaanbaz, a handsome Afghani youth, is confronted with a horrific new reality once she reaches Afghanistan. Her individuality and spirit are crushed as she is instructed to be compliant and meek. Sushmita also discovers that her husband already has a wife and that he has considered her little more than a commodity all along. The love she thought they shared turns out to be a lie. Trapped in a loveless marriage in a suffocating, intolerant society, Sushmita resolves to reclaim her lost freedom or die trying. How she finally manages to get away from the Taliban militia - which sentences her to death for ?going against Islam? and trying to motivate women to rise against the ?torture? inflicted on them - forms the crux of the movie.

This is a pointless exercise of flogging a dead horse. The Taliban movement as it existed in Afghanistan till the recent past holds nothing to interest viewers of cinema unless the documentation is authentic, well researched and portrayed with honesty. Sushmita?s travails are projected in such a gory, revolting manner you wonder what kept the Censor Board from giving an ?A? (Adult) certificate to the movie. The treatment of the interesting subject is so crass and shabby that the only emotion one can feel is a deep sense of dismay. When the bride arrives in the Afghani village from Kolkata your mind goes back to Shakti: The Power where Karisma Kapoor finds herself in a similar situation. There, at least Shah Rukh Khan provided relief with the catchy ?Ishq Kameena? number.

But in Escape, there?s no escape from the dreadful feeling of claustrophobia that grips you throughout the film. Nothing great about Manisha?s acting but it is the only feature that makes the going bearable. Her makeup is often excessive, the green eye shadow most certainly an eyesore. Manisha is capable of much better stuff, given the right kind of direction. Debutant Nawab Khan is painfully lacklustre. Aly Khan as the local Taliban chief has you in splits. The funny thing is that it is unintentional! Music by Babul Bose is insipid. The only good thing about the movie is the rugged terrain of picturesque Ladakh which passes off as Afghanistan. The director has chosen his locales well.

Alas, what could have been a gripping saga of feminine valour turns out to be nothing but sheer tedium with no escape route for the audience, except of course the Exit door of the cinema hall!

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