Fitoor, the new Bollywood update of Great Expectations, opened today in limited release. I did not expect it to be playing near here -- even so close to the big city, we don't always get the limited-release movies. But this time, we did! So I caught a screening this afternoon.
This was my first Bollywood movie, so I wasn't sure exactly what to expect. If Fitoor is any indication, they're heavy on gorgeous scenery and costumes, songs and montages, slow-mo, closeups, and long, soulful gazes. The movie is truly beautiful to look at. And the actors, led by Aditya Roy Kapur, Katrina Kaif, and Tabu, all gave good performances. (I've seen some criticism of Kaif's performance online; again, I don't know much about the Bollywood ideal, but I thought she was fine.)
Also, I appreciated the scenes in which the film offered a small, playful tribute to Dickens by having its lead characters quote A Tale of Two Cities to each other!
As for the story, it follows the general trajectory of Dickens's story, but there are some significant changes. Pip, known here as Noor, is now an artist -- something I think they carried over from the Ethan Hawke-Gwyneth Paltrow film, though I never saw that one. Many of the characters have had their rough edges smoothed off: Noor is less snotty; Estella's character, known here as Firdaus, is less icy; Noor's sister is kinder; Begum, the Miss Havisham character, is still rich and eccentric, but she doesn't actually start decaying until Firdaus has grown up and left home. On the other hand, Herbert, or Arif, is much snarkier.
Perhaps most significantly, Magwitch's (or Muazzam's role is cut way down, and the purpose of his revelation is changed. This fits in with the rest of the movie, which heavily emphasizes the love story and pares down all the other elements. The word fitoor (according to a quick Internet search) translates to obsession or madness, and that's the whole point of this version of the story: Noor's obsession with Firdaus and how it changes their lives and the lives of those around them. Themes of class and wealth are very important, and the theme of vengeance is still somewhat important (though rather less important than it was in the novel, I think), but only as support for the love story. Everything, basically, is there to serve the love story.
So while the movie works all right just as a love story, it loses many of the best elements of the original story and thus is ultimately a weak adaptation at best. The only lesson Noor seems to learn is that obsessive behavior will get you what you want.
(Fitoor is unrated. There's a small amount of profanity, one bedroom scene that hardly shows anything, and a violent explosion that kills a minor character. The movie is in Hindi with subtitles. Image copyright UTV Motion Pictures.)