The quality of Indian movies that tackled romance and patriotism has ranged over a wide spectrum with movies like Roja at one end and movies like Majnu at the other. Fanaa falls somewhere in the middle. Its high-wattage, charismatic stars manage to elevate the weak romance to an entertaining level but even they cannot make us overlook the outrageousness of the patriotism/terrorism aspects of the film.
Fanaa has a poetic love story in the literal sense of the phrase since Aamir and Kajol develop their romance almost entirely by exchanging couplets! There are one too many of the poems and we frequently wish the two would get back to talking normally (though I have to admit that reading the subtitles could have robbed them of their original charm). The romance itself is completely cinematic and Aamir, as the loveable rogue, and Kajol, as the woman who thinks she has found Mr.Right, pull it off only because of their talent, charisma and chemistry.
Roja worked because Manirathnam never lost sight of the personal aspect of the story. The story moved to Kashmir and brought terrorism into the picture but the question was always whether Arvind Swamy would be reunited with Madhubala. Not whether Kashmir would stay with India. But other films treat the romance and the terrorist angle as 2 different films. And more often than not, the intimate, personal love story and the big, jingoistic patriotic section never jel.
Fanaa does the same mistake. The relationship between Aamir and Kajol is obviously the centerpiece of the film. And with cuteness, strong emotions, passion, betrayal, etc., it has enough strength to carry the entire film. Inspite of this, the terrorism angle is portrayed as if it is part of a James Bond film. The segments are loud, overblown and silly with elements straight out of a 80s thriller. So we have a bottle-shaped trigger for a nuclear device that can destroy a city, terrorist meetings, undercover missions and anti-terrorist units. The intensity of the feelings between Aamir and Kajol, as they meet under very different circumstances, is all but lost because of the insipid nature of this track.
Aamir has to be admired for taking on this role. It is not your typical loverboy role and his character has many more shades of gray than I expected. But he has still not given up his image completely and that leads to a weak climax. What could have been a tense climax along the lines of the one in Eye of the Needle is turned into a predictable, lame affair.