by HELEN GEIB
Apne is an Indian father-son melodrama starring real life father and sons Dharmendra and Sunny and Bobby Deol. It is also a boxing movie, a happy choice of genre to play out this storyline. The narrative tropes of the boxing film and heavy symbolism of the ring prove well suited to the highly charged emotionalism of the family drama. Apne offers the pleasures of a familiar story told well and powerful acting by Dharmendra and Sunny Deol.
Dharmendra plays Baldev, the father. Baldev’s professional boxing career was cut short when he was falsely accused of doping, but boxing remained the great passion of his life and he continues to dream of vindication through international recognition of Indian boxing. His dream found a more personal expression in his ambitions for a professional boxing career for his elder son, Angad, played by Sunny Deol, until Angad left boxing against his father’s wishes to take a steady job that would support the family. Baldev’s bitterness over what he sees as Angad’s betrayal gave rise to a long-standing emotional estrangement between father and son, an estrangement that is also felt deeply by the rest of the family. Baldev’s dream is revived some years later by younger son Karan, played by Bobby Deol, when Karan enters an international boxing tournament. The tournament supplies the movie’s plot and reconciliation between father and son its emotional center.
The father who tries to fulfill his dreams by proxy and the sons who adopt their father’s dream to win his approval and love: the story is universal and unfailingly powerful. Some of the plot points of the boxing story are ludicrous contrivances, but in general that part of the story is straightforward and no more unrealistic than the average Hollywood genre film. The more interesting reconciliation story uses an effective pattern of repetition and inversion, and I never doubted its emotional truth.
The musical numbers for the most part are very low-key and integrated into the story. Some of the numbers are simply narrative scenes of family reunion, celebration or leave taking that are played under a song, and the training montages with musical soundtrack (seemingly obligatory in a post-Rocky boxing film) could be transplanted whole to a non-Indian film. The exception is a couple of uninteresting and entirely unnecessary showcase numbers for Bobby Deol.
Deol’s dance numbers are pre-intermission filler, and Apne suffers from the common complaint in Indian films of having a number of scenes that are included solely to pad the running time. It’s not an extreme case and Apne would still be really quite a good movie if it wasn’t for Bobby Deol’s overwrought and one-note performance. The off-screen relationship explains the casting and some of the intimate family scenes fulfill its promise, but on the whole Deol is more of a liability than an asset. The weakness of his performance is all the more apparent when contrasted with the confident and modulated performances by his father and brother.
2 1/2 stars