Directed by Kabir Khan, of Kabul Express non-fame, New York stars John Abraham, Neil Nitin Mukesh, and Katrina Kaif, in what is arguably her most dramatic role yet. Now, being a release from the Yash Raj stable, their first one of the year at that, you know that the ultra-hype and lavish promotional sprees can never be too far away. But if there’s one thing we’ve learnt over the past few years, it’s that trusting a Yash Raj movie based on its hype is as cardinal as a sin can get. So, does New York have the content to match up to its word?
With post-9/11 America as a backdrop, New York tells us a story that spans across an entire decade from ’99-’09. It begins in the present day, with the detention of Omar (Neil Nitin Mukesh) by the FBI on suspected terror charges. Upon Omar’s interrogation by the lead investigative officer (Irrfan Khan), the narrative moves into flashback, where we find out about his friendship with Sam (John Abraham) and Maya (Katrina Kaif) in college, and how he parts ways with them after graduation, which just happens to coincide with the WTC attacks.
The FBI offers Omar a deal; that the charges against him be dropped, if he re-enters his now married-to-each-other friends’ lives to act as an informant against Sam, who is suspected of being a terrorist mastermind. Convinced of Sam’s innocence and with little other choice, Omar grudgingly agrees to the deal and uncovers some shocking truths that will, as the promos say, “change their lives forever”.
New York, undoubtedly, has an important message to put out and succeeds in doing so, to a significant extent. For a movie providing what is essentially, social commentary, it manages not to beat you into submission with its agenda; a trap that most message movies fall into. Also worth commending is the fact that for a movie which touches a whole slew of issues, from the harshness of the Patriot Act to loyalty and friendship, most of it fits seamlessly into the narrative, rather than being forced upon it. Among the performances, Irrfan Khan delivers his usual, assured brand of acting here. But a special mention to Katrina Kaif who, in an undubbed role, manages to pull off more than a convincing performance. Also, you can never go wrong with the visuals in a Yash Raj movie, and the case is no different here.
While New York may not beat you into submission with its message, it sure does take its own sweet time to deliver it. With a run-time of close to 3 hours, it wouldn’t be a stretch to call this a very tedious watch. A point reiterated by the fact that there are only 2 songs in the entire movie. To say that there are sub-plots in the movie that could have been done without is a true understatement.
But worse than the plot’s sluggishness are the gaping loopholes littered throughout the screenplay, some of which the director, in his infinite wisdom, actually uses to set up further unexplained threads as we move towards the climax. To explain any of this would mean to risk giving away the more important plot turns. Suffice it to say that logic isn’t something you should question during the final act. Among the two male leads, it’s hard to determine which one’s role had more scope for performance and which one fails to deliver worse. John and Neil, you’ve got a long way to go!
The comparisons were out before the movie was released and now the results are in. To summarise in short, New York is little more than a poor man’s version of ‘Khuda Ke Liye’, with a bigger budget. While both had the same basic premise, the Pakistani film had the air-tight script and the performances to back it. Watch New York only if you have the sufficient patience for it, along with the ability to suspend your analytical system for the duration of the second half.