Aapko Pehle Bhi Kahin Dekha Hai (2003)
Director: Anubhav Sinha
Cast: Pummy Brar, Priyanshu Chatterjee, Crystal
Synopsis: A suspended cop ends up in Calgary searching for a criminal, where he falls in love with daughter of a successful Indian businessman and a protective father who takes a while to accept his future son-in-law.
Aapko Pehle Bhi Kahin Dekha Hai is a prime example of a film saved from mediocrity by the performance of one actor. In this case that actor is movie veteran Om Puri, who, in a role originally intended for Amitabh Bachchan, delivers a memorably sympathetic performance as Sam, the jealous father of a young girl being wooed by a suspended police officer. Puri is one of those actors whose weathered features are instantly recognisable, but whose name is not, and he never fails to deliver a professional performance. His work-rate is phenomenal: in the past 10 years he has made no less than 75 movies.
The story is typical Bollywood mush, but comes across as a combination Father of the Bride/Meet the Parents. Sam is a successful Indian businessman based in Canada with a beautiful teenage daughter, Pakhi (Saakshi), whose mother died at childbirth. Naturally, Sam is extremely protective of his daughter, and is extremely suspicious of Samar, (Priyanshu Chatterjee), a suspended cop who has flown to Canada to redeem his career, but who claims to be an ‘Additional Manager’ at Pepsi Cola.
Aapko Pehle Bhi Kahin Dekha Hai stands apart from most of its Bollywood brethren by virtue of its beautiful sun-kissed Canadian location, and it makes a refreshing change to see a Bollywood movie in which the main characters have integrated into another culture — no matter how tenuously. Early on, I was sure that, at some point, the worried father, Sam, would attempt to arrange his daughter’s marriage to another man in order to foil Samar’s designs on her, and was pleasantly surprised when this development — which almost seems to be mandatory in Bollywood romances — failed to materialise. Instead, the movie took its time to explore the touching relationship between father and daughter, and was all the better for it. In his role as the doting father, Puri demonstrated a deft understanding of the unique quality of such a relationship that so many good actors in the past have failed to capture. It is especially impressive that he manages to do so in a role that is mostly played for broad laughs.
The sub-plot, regarding Samar’s attempts to nail arch criminal Jo-Jo (played by a character credited only as Harry), who escaped while in his custody, and is the reason for the policeman’s suspension, is sketchy and underwritten, and fails to convince completely. It’s almost as if, having dreamed up a reason for this hip young cop to be in Calgary, writers Shashank Dabral and Anubhav Sinha (who also directed and co-produced) felt obliged to fill in a few details when all they really wanted to do was concentrate on the light-hearted conflict between Pakhi’s father and suitor. Even the concluding shootout, in which Jo-Jo is arrested and Sam and Samar finally bond, is curiously flat and unexciting.
As far as contemporary Bollywood romances go, this one is worth a look — for Puri’s performance, at least — and, at a running time of two hours and twenty minutes, it’s not quite as bum-numbing as many of the movie behemoths emerging from India these days.