(a.k.a. Body) (2003)
Directed by Amit Saxena

Artistic Value: * * *
Entertainment Value: * * * ½

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Kabir Lal (John Abraham), a young lawyer living in Pondicherry, encounters a wealthy and beautiful but married woman, Sonia Khanna (Bipasha Basu), with whom he begins a fiery love affair. After her previously absent husband returns home, however, the two are forced to terminate this relationship. Kabir, who is entirely smitten with Sonia, is subsequently unable to endure her being with another man and readily consents when she suggests to him that he kill her husband.

For a Bollywood film, Amit Saxena's Jism is surprisingly daring and racy. It is, moreover, a genuinely enjoyable and engaging movie.

The first part of the of the narrative focuses on the development of Kabir and Sonia's affair and is generally if not invariably well done. Even though their introduction to one another is awkward and forced, once the two are together, the viewer is likely to find himself involved with their passion and excited by the riskiness of their relationship. He sees the intensity of this elicit love and the harmful effects it is having on Kabir, who is becoming increasingly alienated from his friends and family and who appears to be losing his mind when he is no longer able to see Sonia.

After Kabir has murdered his lover's husband, the tone of the film changes dramatically, although its quality remains inconsistent. The revelations the director has inserted here about Sonia's character and his exposure of her various machinations are often intriguing and force the viewer to reevaluate much of what he has previously seen in a way that heightens the sense of tragedy that pervades the latter part of the movie. Regrettably, there are times when Saxena's depictions of Sonia are entirely too exaggerated and are, consequently, distracting.

Such faults, sadly, are emphasized by the director's clumsy use of overly emphatic music and melodramatic lines and cuts. Instead of allowing the viewer to enjoy a subtly developed story of passion gone mad, Saxena underlines every point and makes several of portions of his work seem trivial and overblown.

What is more, the overacting of a number of the supporting players greatly contributes to this feeling. Fortunately, both of the leads usually acquit themselves well. John Abraham is occasionally smarmy, but as his character is essentially a shallow, vain, unpleasant individual, this quality actually helps to bring out the man's nature. Bipasha Basu, however, is a joy to watch. Not only is she stunningly beautiful, but she also suffuses Sonia with a dangerous mysteriousness and a sly coquettishness that make her absolutely captivating to watch.

Whatever its shortcomings, Jism is a generally engaging and frequently affecting film.

Review by Keith Allen

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