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MOVIE REVIEW

Review: 'Paa'

The father-son Bollywood soap is lush in music and scenery but over-ripe in length.

December 05, 2009|By Kevin Thomas

For "Paa," veteran Indian superstar Amitabh Bachchan submitted to four hours of makeup to turn him into a 12-year-old boy named Auro, who is afflicted with a rare genetic defect that accelerates the aging process so rapidly that he looks nearly 80. Although the makeup, involving a large prosthetic head, is pretty good, it wasn't worth the effort, for the film is no more than a tedious, over-long Bollywood soap opera.

Handsome Amol (Abhishek Bachchan, Amitabh's son) and beautiful Vidya (Vidya Balan) meet at Oxford -- or Cambridge, since settings at both universities are used. Amol pursues Vidya, even though he plans to concentrate solely on becoming a reforming politician back in India. In any event, Vidya becomes pregnant, the couple break up -- but Vidya does not have the abortion Amol thinks she has had. Vidya becomes a gynecologist in Lucknow and raises Auro with the help of her mother (Arundhati Naag.) while Amol, also living in Lucknow, becomes a crusading member of Parliament.

With a loving mother and grandmother and attending a posh private school, where he is treated kindly, Auro, who is precocious and witty, is happy. It is there, at an awards ceremony, that father and son cross paths and the politician takes an interest in Auro, unaware that he is actually his son.

All of this happens early on in the film but writer-director R. Balki stretches out "Paa," which is "Pa" in Hindi, to an unconscionable 145 minutes that seems all the longer since it's clear that father and son will eventually learn of their relationship. Meanwhile, time is running out for Auro, who is approaching 13, an age beyond which few with his condition live. Bachchan's Auro is fairly convincing; his costars are as effective as the genre permits. The film abounds with lush music, scenery and fancy editing flourishes in the elaborate Bollywood tradition.

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