Cast: John Abraham, Prateeksha Lonkar, Anaitha Nair, Sonal Sehgal, Ashwin Chitale and others
Director: Nagesh Kukunoor
Aashayein begins with a promising track shot taking the audience from an old house to a den of bookies in an old and dilapidated courtyard. The opening shot is so fantastic that it raises your aashayein, only for the film to dash them soon after.
The story of a compulsive gambler (we hardly see the obsession with gambling), Aashayein is a confused hotchpotch of many messages, none of them hard enough to hit you. Our protagonist Rahul Sharma (John), a wannabe Indiana Jones, is diagnosed with lung cancer, packs his belongings, and moves to a hospice for the terminally ill. His lover Nafisa (Sehgal) promises to stay by his side, but Rahul refuses any pity, even treatment (leaving us wondering why).
At the hospice, he meets the lively 17-year-old cancer patient Padma (Nair), who develops a certain fondness for Rahul. Other inmates include the elderly Uncle Parthasarthi (Girish Karnad), who cannot speak without an aid; former high-class prostitute Madhu (Farida Jalal), who is HIV-positive, and mystery man, sorry, boy, Govinda (Chitale), who supposedly has magical powers.
Just before the intermission, you are left confused if chain smoker Rahul has really been healed by Govinda’s spiritual powers or if the sudden changes in him are the result of the rapidly spreading cancer.
In the second half, the film moves painfully slowly, becoming more and more incomprehensible by the minute, leaving you wondering what is going on. It appears to be devoid of any script and looks as if the director had so much footage that he used every bit of it in the vain asha that some of it will make sense.
You do see John's ability when you manage to look away from the hunk’s dimples. In the first half he is but an extension of his real-life persona, but the second half sees him transformed into an actor. Towards the end, however, you start doubting his acting skills once again.
Sehgal is believable and plays her part well; no over-the-top acting here. The others, Karnad, Jalal and Chitale, are decent, though Jalal does not show any of the signs of suffering of a real HIV-positive patient. She looks like she has stepped straight out of some saas-bahu serial, with only the heavy jewellery missing.
The best part of the film is Nair, whose quirky ways are likeable. Last seen in Chak De! India, Nair does a fantastic job as the cancer patient estranged from her parents.
Aashayein, whose release was delayed by almost two years, is so hopeless that you wish it had remained in the cans forever. The jarring music is unable to do anything to save the film.
If Aashayein is director Kukunoor’s idea of magic realism, he may need a reality check. Aashayein is grave disappointment after the filmmaker's critically acclaimed Iqbal and Dor.