directed by Mansoor Khan
(Eros, 2000)

Josh could be considered a Bollywood interpretation of West Side Story. You've got the two rival gangs, the forbidden romance between a boy and girl from each side, etc. It has a lot going for it, including Shahrukh Khan as one of the gang leaders, the beautiful Aishwarya Rai in a much different type of role than usual, and music by Anu Malik.

I certainly enjoyed the movie, but I don't consider it a great film. Some of the music didn't appeal to me, all of the gang posturing eventually became annoying and the romance at the heart of the story lacked the type of passion one usually finds in Hindi Cinema. That makes the film's title somewhat ironic to me, as I believe "Josh" (which is not the name of a film character) translates to something akin to passion.

The film is set in Goa, which gives the viewer a different kind of background than you usually find in Hindi films. The characters here are Christian rather than Hindi, for example. Anyway, Goa's Vasco town is separated into two sections, one controlled by the Bicchu gang, the other by the Eagles. Prakash (Sharad Kapoor) leads the Bicchu gang, while Max (Shahrukh Khan) stands atop the Eagles -- and the two men dislike each other intensely. Both groups are continually getting into rumbles, as someone seems to always be setting foot where he doesn't belong. When Prakash's brother Rahul (Chandrachur Singh) comes to visit, he is quite put off by the insanity of the rival gang nonsense, but he finds himself in the middle of a growing conflict after falling head over heels for Max's sister Shirley (Aishwarya Rai). Shirley is not the type of innocent, pure-hearted girl that Aish usually plays; she is every bit Max's twin sister and a willing participant in some of the Eagles' tomfoolery. She has no interest in Rahul at all -- not at first. When they do fall in love, she is too scared to tell Max about it, knowing Max will beat Rahul up -- or worse. The gangs' fights have been growing more intense as it is, so the prospects of an ultimate confrontation between Prakash and Max harbor nothing remotely good.

Josh is more straightforward than many a Bollywood film, but there are still several twists and turns to the story that make for an eventful, very effective ending. Overall, though, I put Josh fairly low on my list of favorite Aishwarya films. Her character is different here, but she doesn't get much of a chance to shine or really develop before our eyes, and that prevents her relationship with Rahul from generating much steam. As for the music, it took a second listen for some of the music to grow on me, although I still can't say I care a great deal for Shahrukh Khan's "breakthrough song," "Apun Bola." I do like the two romantic songs, "Hai Mera Dil" and "Hum To Dil Se Haare" very much, though.

The DVD is pretty good, as it includes a number of trailers and a look at the making of the film (much, but not all, of which is in English -- there are no subtitles for the behind-the-scenes featurette). Oddly enough, though, the insert with my DVD has the Josh title but features the chapter and song listings of some other movie entirely. I'm sure Shahrukh Khan fans will want to see this movie, and Aishwarya Rai fans should as well -- if for no other reason than to appreciate this showcase of her natural beauty.

by Daniel Jolley
15 April 2006

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