Saturday, December 19, 2009

Rocket Singh review: Mice mice baby

Rocket Singh Salesman of the year movie review by Khalid Mohamed

Cast: Ranbir Kapoor, Gauhar Khan, Shahzan Padamsee, Chopra Prem Chopra

Director: Shimit Amin (drowsy)

Rating: Two stars

Oho, here’s a quote room drama. Everyone, including micro-minor characters drop the kind of dialogue you could only hear in the movie-shovies. Some gems:

*“In business you shouldn’t be counting numbers, you should be counting people, strictly people.”

*“Out here you can either go up..or down” (whoa, what a thought)

*“What nice nice! Mice are nice also.” (oh?)

*“You taught me so many things in life but you forgot to teach me dishonesty.”

That’s story-screenplay-lyric-dialogue writer Jaideep Sahni working far too strenuously for director Shimit Amin’s Rocket Singh: Salesman of the Year. The ouchcome is a laboured, old-fashioned harangue about why honesty is the best policy, which even revives that defunct moment of a corporation’s honcho chucking wads of Rs 500 for a bribe. Cursed be this tribe, say Shimin and Co, as if they had recently discovered that the world isn’t either pancake flat or yummily utopian.

Indeed the plot – which has shades of the Raj Kapoor movie Shriman Satyawadi (1960) and Hollywood’s The Boiler Room (2000) – is so naïve that you wonder if Sahni and Amin need to get out of the Yashraj Studio Fantasyland and understand that there are no free munchies in this town. Or any town.

Which is why their hero, Harpreet Singh Bedi (Ranbir Kapoor), appears to a cute but ultimately clueless clown. Frown. With lousy graduation marks, he still hopes to find immediate employment. And hallelujah, he does, as a computer salesboy who’s immediately assigned a desk near the loo, and hoo-hoo teased by all of his colleagues, behaving like hyenas out of hell. Oh well.

The hyena gang chucks paper rockets at him (you worry about the wastage of tree resources), his supervisor wears a weird Salvador Dali-like beard, and the oily top boss calls him a “zero” and “a bastard” till you want a messianic stunt director to arrive and bash up Boss Oily. Cluck, no such luck.

Logic would have enticed our Cutepreet to resign, snag a job at a call centre perhaps (a friend even suggests that), but no our self-pitying hero insists that he must suffer like a duffer. Otherwise there would be no film…which stretches on and on and on for 16 reels, uninterrupted even by entertainment relief points. No dance, no romance, no (real) song, no tension, you’re mostly locked up in that stifling office which ranges from the plush to the unbelievably grungy (please note the electricity dashboard). Odd.

Next: Cutepreet teams up with the more accommodating office log to initiate a parallel computer-selling trade. Soon they’re rocketing. Upset by his plummeting sales, Boss Oily is seething-snapping-scowling. Growling. Now get this. Cutepreet insists that he’s only borrowing the office facilities and intends to pay Oily some day, complete with interest. Commit a crime now, repent later.

Although the dramaturgy ends up blurring the line between scamming and honesty, a holier-than-thou attitude is maintained throughout. Sure do tell us that corruption and shortchanging the customer don’t finally pay… but please tell us that with clarity and conviction. As for the finale, centering around a phone call, it happens so much by coincidence that it doesn’t ring true at all. Without revealing the resolution, suffice it to say that it’s as deflating as a punctured tyre.

Any redeeming moments? Um, yes the banter between Cutepreet and his granddad (Prem Chopra), their morning prayers, and the no-nonsense attitude of the telephone receptionist (Gauhar Khan, impressive), as well as stray vignettes from the opening graduation party. On the techfront, Vikas Nowlakha’s cinematography and Manas Choudhary’s sound design are A-grade. The editor needed a sharper scissor though. Woe. Saleem-Suleiman’s music is eminently forgettable.

Debutante Shahzan Padamsee is wasted in a briefer than brief role. Frankly if Rocket Singh…is worth a glance it is essentially for three remarkable performances. Naveen Kaushik, as the weirdo beardo supervisor, is marvellously mercurial. As the garrulous top boss, Manish Chaudhary, is convincing. Above all, Ranbir Kapoor keeps you engaged despite the ill-written script. For instance, his backstory is missing. Whatever happened to his parents? Why was he brought up by his dadoo? Gentle, courteous and repressing his anger, Ranbir Kapoor is excellent. Alas, the rest of Rocket Singh…isn’t.

Akki: Action required

When comedies compel you to weep, you know that the ha-ha formula needs to be reinvented — and pronto.

And today, no other Bollywood actor needs a changeover more urgently than the comedy-friendly Akshay Kumar who has delivered five disappointments in a row this year: From Chandni Chowk to China, Kambakt Ishk, Tasveer 8 x 10, Blue and now De Dana Dan.

Director Priyadarshan, who has been hacking out more films than you can count on your toes and fingers, sought to revive his Hera Pheri team, bringing Kumar and Sunil Shetty back with the infallibly feisty Paresh Rawal. Yet, star value is certainly not enough. The inordinately lengthy De Dana Dan (two hours and 40 minutes, no less) bored most viewers to tears. Oddly enough, in the post-interval portion, Kumar was assigned scanty footage as the screenplay chose to keep him (literally) hidden in a hotel suite’s closet. Not only did Kumar’s loyalists feel let down, but supporting characters like Shakti Kapoor and Rajpal Yadav ended up dominating the show.

Also, the dialogue did not have the sparkle essential for a laugh-raiser. The finale, showing a flooded five-star hotel in Singapore, was extremely tacky in a bid to replicate the glug-glug aqua effects of say The Poseidon Adventure. Don’t even think of Titanic, please.

Clearly, Kumar — who can be overwhelmingly funny and adept at action stunts — needs an enterprise that can rescue him from the career doldrums. His saviours could well be directors Vipul Amrutlal Shah, who is completing Action Replay with him currently, and Farah Khan, who will film Tees Maar Khan with him in March next year. In fact, the alliance between Kumar and Farah has sent shock waves in showbiz circles since the choreographer turned director seemed to be working exclusively with Shah Rukh Khan (Main Hoon Na, Om Shanti Om).

It is no trade secret that Kumar has always longed to become as popular, if not more so, than Shah Rukh Khan. There is nothing wrong with wishful thinking.The actor needs smarter public relations, since there isn’t sufficient buzz about him in the market.

He is striving to project himself as a family man, and inevitably ends up doling out tedious interviews about his wife, Twinkle, and their son Araav, and how wonderfully happy they are.

His Casanova image which linked him with a range of actresses from Pooja Batra and Raveena Tandon (it was even rumoured that they were married for a while) to Sushmita Sen and Shilpa Shetty, has been exhumed. If a story is circulated that he has checked into a hotel after a quarrel with his wife, he denies it vehemently and cuts off ties with the journalist who reported the story.

Indeed, the 42-year-old Kumar (born Rajiv Bhatia) can be childish, constantly whining that he is being unfairly criticised.

Once he called up the owner of a newspaper and TV channel to complain that he should not be criticised. If that continued, he threatened, he would cut off relations with the channel instantly.

So, the critic resolved not to write about him at all—to blank him out — but Kumar did not like that either.

Like every actor in Bollywood, he suffers from the praise-me-praise-me syndrome. Unlike others, though, he is willing to see reason and does not turn vindictive. That much I can say about him.

As for the rumours about him editing out his colleagues’ scenes from the final print, they seem to be less vociferous than before. Perhaps, his co-stars have accepted the fact that if they are in a Kumar movie they must be prepared to give him centrestage. Saif Ali Khan, Arjun Rampal, Sunil Shetty, and even Amitabh Bachchan, have found their roles abbreviated in their films with him. Indeed, Kumar even made a self-mocking reference about this ‘editing interference’ in one of his more successful films, Namaste London.

Obviously, after this year’s failures at the cash counters, Kumar needs to reassess his calibre and redesign his projects. He has not been seen in an emotional drama lately.

A film in this genre could perhaps just do the trick to refuel his stardom. After all, earlier he has been remarkably restrained and impressive in love stories like Dhadkan, Andaaz, and even in a brief appearance in Dil To Pagal Hai. Truly, we have had enough buffoonery and eve-teasing chauvinism in the name of comedy from the actor. He has a strong screen presence and he can be endearing when he wants to be. Honestly, how you wish you’d see a new improved Akshay Kumar very soon. Until then, you can only go oh-no-no over such pains in the neck as De Dana Dan. Ouch.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Kuch kuch terrorism hai?

Cast: Saif Ali Khan, Kareena Kapoor, Om Puri

Direction: Rensil D’Silva 

Rating: One and a half stars 

I desisted from writing an instant-noodle review of Kurbaan. I said I wouldn’t, there’s no point etc. Because it raised my hackles to the extent that I wondered whether I was responding to this travesty of a film as a critic or as a Muslim.  

I saw the film again, reflected on its content as well as style, and so yes, though I had promised myself that I would ignore the film, here I am for whatever it’s worth giving my take on the widely publicised film (Some love stories have blood on them, went the poster catchline, whatever that means). Because silence at times from a critic should not mean approval or even acceptance. 

The most shallow film of 2009, Kurbaan directed by Rensil D’Silva and produced by Karan Johar,borrows its skeletal plot premise about urban terrorism from Hollywood’s Arlington Road(1999), a film which Johar wanted to adapt and direct some half a decade ago. Presumably he didn’t because he couldn’t put together a script to his personal satisfaction.  

The scripting task, in Johar’s mind, has been achieved by D’Silva who had co-written the  superior but flawed Rang de Basanti. In its very concept, Kurbaan plays on dangerous ground. With several inevitable subtractions and additions, it morphs the original’s story about American terrorists operating from the deceptively calm suburbia. Only in this case, the terrorists are Muslims, endowed with rough stubbles, red hot eyes and the biggest cliché of them all, Om Puri as chief exterminator. If this is not irresponsible cinema, what is? Karan Johar credits himself with the story. Wonderful! If he ever adapts Red Riding Hood, he’s likely to take credit for that too. 

Saif Ali Khan, as Ehsaan Khan, and all the terrorist baddies are Muslims. Still do note, Kareena Kapoor with those dead eyes and twitch-twitch mouth is Avantika -- meaning a non-Muslim is about to expose a sleeper terrorist cell. Applause for the Avantikas of the world! Perhaps a Salma or Shehnaz ,as the deceived wife of Ehsaan, would not have washed with the majority community audience. D’Silva-Johar mistakenly believe that they know the formula. So what if every twist and turn in the dramaturgy is replete with contrived coincidences and are laughably illogical as well. The easy-as-pie manner,in which Ehsaan Khan is okayed by an American Unversity to take classes on the Muslim identity, is a ribtickler.  

Now, cut back to the heroic heroine Avantika. She  is aided by a sidey-effect, Vivek Oberoi portraying a Muslim, but he’s more of an add-on than organic to the plot. As awkwardly Dia Mirza, as Reporter Rehana,goes up in smoke in an airplane blast. The sequence is so tackily picturised that you squirm in your seat. Indeed, you fret throughout the two-hour-40-minute film, a brazenly glossy, superficial and blinkered view of post-9/11 terrorism. 

No effort is made to investigate the root causes (except for some wonky allusion to global oil prices..and groan, personal vendetta). No effort is made to touch upon the complexities, or the after-effects of the beastly, misguided madness. No effort is made to do anything but be hopelessy irrational. Take the terrorists mudering one of their own jehadi’s wife. Did they wake up one morning to conclude that her kheer and biryani were not up to the mark? Or did they have issues with her smiling beatifically? And what about Big Bad Mamma Jehadi (Kirron Kher doing an Irene Papas-like number) looking more venomous than Cruella Da Vil? More: And what about that giggle-inducing close-up of cyanide capsules? In case of trouble, terrorists are instructed to swallow immediately. Some of them don’t and so have to be pumped with bullets in sleazoid bars. Or at a smashed car’s steering wheel.What a hoot!  

Strictly by comparison Jagmohan Mundra’s Shoot at Sight (with a near-similar plot) was good, Kabir Khan’s New York was much better, and with or without comparison, Shoaib Mansoor’s Khuda Kay Liye was outstanding. 

From the first frame to the last, Kurbaan is a lesson in how not to write a script and worse, how to direct it. The romance between the two dandily-garbed professors on a Delhi campus is embarrassing. By the way, a bookish professor sprouts up like a mushroom to display his terrorist fangs.So much bookwas really. 

Saif, as Ehsaan on the FBI’s most wanted radar, coolly zips in and out of U S airports (he’s trimmed his beard, and maybe even has a fake massa somewhere). And Avantika turns out to be one ditzy damsel, staying on with Ehsaan even after she dhan ta na, she has learnt of his secret identity. Hello hello! Pregnant with his child, our Avantikaji  beds him to show off that poster-sized bare back. He’s shown bare -backed too, but in terms of screen sex appeal, both need some elementary lessons pronto. Chill! 

The FBI agents come off as nerds, the terrorists strike you as puppets on the director’s loose strings, and the action like a car crash, are sloppy. Hemant Chaturvedi’s camerawork in a bid to be coolly stylish is much too obtrusive; as for the transition shots of homes and buildings, they become so excessive that for a moment you feel you’re watching a digest of architecture. 

Vis-à-vis  the Islamic elements, the kalima is much too randomly used (someone even stops saying it midway through) and precious words are bandied about, like Alhamdolillah, which must be used with care and pure faith. Did anyone care to re-re-authenticate the dialogue and lyrics?  Evidently not. 

The tortoise-paced editing makes Kurbaan heavy on both the mind and the heart. And like it or not, the performances are nothing to write home, or anywhere,  about. Saif Ali Khan either looks super-smug or goes smirk-smirk. Kareena Kapoor is irritatingly cosmetic, wearing lip gloss even when she’s zzzzupposed to be in bed, asleep. Vivek Oberoi should stop tearing his eyes to convey shock. And Om Puri should reject such terrorist boss roles, please, please, please – pretty please? 

In effect, then, Kurbaan is the sort of film that doesn’t have a clue about the complex subject it is dealing with. It set my teeth on edge. And ha ha , not only because it is revealed at the end that the real name of Saif Ali Khan’s terrorist happens to be Khalid. Thanks Karan, Rensil.. whoever he is referring to.. I’d just like to see how you guys would respond if your names were used for heinous criminals on screen. Or even in graffiti. Try it. 

Clearly the motive for such movies is sheer profit.  Who cares about responsible cinema? Certainly not Johar who plays with faith and terrorism as if they were toys, absolutely designer. 

Friday, November 13, 2009

Wet untill dark

Tum Mile
Cast: Emraan Hashmi, Soha Ali Khan, Water Kumar
Director: Kunal Deshmukh
Rating: Three stars

Squawk. The wannapaint Picasso is facing an artist’s block. How he rumbles, bumbles, grumbles. Then flash! He sees his live-in girlfriend sitting sadly on the bed, our faces turn red, and heil M F Husain, the artist is ready with a canvas overnight. Right.
That’s a rather juvenile situation imagined for Tum Mile, or Love Story July 25 2005. Hang on though. To the immense credit of director Kunal Deshmukh, he shoots it with such sensitivity and grace, that you’re convinced that he’s an underrated director. Both Deshmukh and Mohit Suri (Woh Lamhe) from the Mahesh-Mukesh Bhatt factory are excellent technicians, and deserve to be in the A-list of mainstream directors. They know mise en scene, where to manoeuvre the camera at which point, when to cut, and why the lighting shouldn’t look as if life was a permanent wedding reception. Deshmukh made an auspicious beginning with Jannat which even clicked commercially. Cool?
Don’t know about cool but wet for sure. For his second foray into Emraan Hashmidom (including a couple of dainty mouth-to-mouth you-know-whats), Deshmukh opts for a subject that’s strangely reminiscent of plight of Jeff Goldblum-Margaret Colin -- an estranged couple who reunite on the brink of disaster -- in Independence Day.
In this case, the disaster is the monsoon fury evidenced by Mumbai over four years ago. So what? might ask. So plenty.
The outcome is two separate movies. One is about Hashmiji and Soha Ali Khan going gaga sa re gaga in Cape Town. He’s a waiter with a talent for repairing dilapidated chocolate cakes, and she’s wealthy enough to be on the Forbes richest list. Her dad’s Sachin Khedekar, who does not look like the Forbes type at all, but you let that pass. And anyway he fetches up only for a minute to admonish his daughter, “What is this live-in relationship all about? My generation was not like your generation..blah blooh bleeeeh.” Oh puh-lease.
More: Cake Man wants to bake paintings instead and Forbes girl who campaigns for a greener world. In that pursuit, they go through quite a few montage Pritam songs about love, heartache and break-up. They split only to meet up, then, in the first class cabin of an airplane.Very intelligently, Cake quizzes, “What are you doing on this plane?” Even more intelligently, she smiles, “Same as you are doing, going to Mumbai.” Rattled Cake asks the airhostess to shift him to the economy class (no way, she says, spoilsport!). Grrrr, he goes, downing a mini-Vat 69. And hey you thought that Scotch had vanished with the daze of Jeetendraji (trivia info: Jeetendraji danced among cut-outs of Vat 69 in Gunahon ka Devta…oh boy!).
Soon we’re on to the second film (two for the price of one, see) which is shot in a studio and also uses archival footage to recreate the monsoon devastation in Mumbai. While the first film or the heartistic section is scripted, shot and performed marvellously, the second one, is for want of a better word, sorry. Er..soggy.
Painstakingly crafted certainly but the special effects are pure cheddar (particularly a telegraph pole hitting a flooded road), and the ending is as predictable as X’mas in December. The nail-biting tension required for an aqualung caper, which even strives to be a micro-Titanic (check out a wall giving way to a whoosh of water), is conspicuous by its absence.
Technically, this effort arrives ironically in the same week as the gazillion-dollar-fuelled 2012. It’s evident that if popular cinema is to match FX with Hollywood, infinitely far more resources are needed and also a screenplay which doesn’t keep cutting between the past (Cape Town) and the present (Mumbai) as if it was desperately imitating Alain Resnais’ time jugglery.
That apart, there’s still decent value for money here , particularly for the manner in which cinematographer Prakash Kutty and director Deshmukh achieve a mellow, subdued look throughout. The dialogue is teasingly pepperminty. Pritam’s music score is one of his more dulcet ones, melodious and even elegiac as in Dil ibadat and Tu hi haqeeqat.
Of the cast, Soha Ali Khan tends to get overwrought occasionally but overall, she is likeable and watchable. Emraan Hashmi’s convincing despite the difficult role; he’s confident and in control. Supporting players are quite okey-dokey just like the rest of this Tum Gilay.
PS: (Synopses and notes located on websites for Tum Mile indicate that the character of Emraan Hashmi was called Ali Taha…in the movie the character is called Akshay..what happened?..why the change?..anyway..could be someone thought ‘Akshay’ is more amenable to the box-office..well?)

Friday, November 6, 2009

Laugh’s like that

Ajab Prem ki Ghazab Kahani
Cast: Ranbir Kapoor, Katrina Kaif, Salman Khan (for a minute!)
Director: Raj Kumar Santoshi
Rating: Two and a half stars
The kid’s brilliant. So watch it Hrithik Roshan, Shahid Kapoor and all the big and small Khans. At the rate he’s going – by sheer evidence of his screen charisma, technical felicity and youth power – Ranbir Kapoor is more than likely to be the Next Best Thing, if he isn’t one already. He’s RK Jr and he’s more than super A-Ok.
One BIG movie that can accommodate his talent, and he’ll be unstoppable. Alas, Raj Kumar Santoshi’s Ajab Prem ki Ghazab Kahani (tongue-twister of a title that) is not that Biggie. Yet the actor does make the old-wine-in-newish-bottle watchable and remarkable for it wow moments -- like RK Jr’s soliloquy in church and that scene of self-reflection on losing out on love, picturised against a hillscape in the declining evening. Applause please.
There is a bubbling chemistry, too, between goofball Prem (Ranbir Kapoor) and the Cinderella-like Jenny (Katrina Kaif). It’s heartening to see them together, never mind that corny in-joke about her fan mania for Salman Khan, who by the way, pops up in an uncredited guest appearance. Indeed, that’s the problem with director and co-writer Santoshi: he lays on the romcom much too thick like an entire tub of butter expended on a single muffin. Too much huffin’ and puffin’, including Santoshi fetching up in a Hitchcokian appearance to shrug grandpa-like at the lead pair. Cute? Just a little.
In fact in sum, Ajab..Ghazab is just that. Quite zany and ticklish occasionally but far too pancake-flat for most of the way. No Andaz Apna Apna this, which incidentally, is recalled very quietly in the background score. Or was it sound engineer Rakesh Ranjan fiddling around with the AAA soundtrack cleverly?
Aah, Santoshi was far more peppy and punchy then. This time around, there is an element of the woodenly retro, what with Prem and his pals running a ‘happy club’, besides dashing off for skirmishes with eunuchs (two even tumble and kiss!) and bellicose police officers. Balloons fly, a nasty stepma hisses, the only Nasir Husain touch that’s missing is the good old, late Rajindernath in a woman’s frilly nightie. Oh oh, no that’s there,too. Only Prem opts for the heroine’s pink sleeveless top instead. How gulabi is that!
Technically Santoshi frequently opts for a gaudy look, even outmoded back-projection shots and Steven Bernard’s awkward editing with antiquated wipes when a jump-cut could have made the pace snappier. Moreover, characters keep multiplying like rats as if Santoshi believes that entertainment means the more the madder. It doesn’t. He just has to re-see the classics of Charlie Chaplin or the breezy romances of Shammi Kapoor – both of whom are invoked here – to understand that less can be more in the movies. For instance, a nutzoid don and his henchguys in black become irritating as hell, particularly in the climax which makes the Priyadarshan finales seem far less anarchical by comparison.
The plot, if one can call it that, is simply this: hazy lazy Prem-sees-girl-falls-in-love-but-doesn’t-tell-her-so-till-she-drags-out Upen Patel (!) from semi-retirement. Patel’s a politician’s son, gifts Jenny a diamond necklace and irrevocably behaves like a sun-tanned Big Moose. Before this, Jenny has also been saved from a wedding to a beefy bozo rekindling Zabisko from Amar Akbar Anthony. In effect, it takes two weddings and no-funeral for true love to go chirpy-chirpy-cheep-cheep.
Throughout the gags could have been infinitely more inventive. Stillsitting on cream cakes, knocking on wooden heads and personality mix-ups are always good for a few guffaws and giggles. Pritam’s music score in serviceable, not quite in the class of his Dhoom and Jab We Met, which you hope will not turn out to be the Sholays of his career. Nothing vaguely comparable after those.
Of the lead players, Katrina Kaif’s looks bankably gorgeous (but pray, she should take care of those worry lines already creasing her forehead), and does reveal an incipient flair for comedy. Without Ranbir Kapoor, of course, this one would have been a mere ajab movie. He brings the much-needed underlining of ghazab to it. Sid has woken up and how.Way to shine!

What a jail bin machhli

Cast: Neil Nitin Mukesh, Manoj Bajpai and Ram Gopal Varma movie-type of clowns-`n’-clones
Director: Madhur Bhandarkar out of form
Rating: Two stars (there’s nothing here that you don’t know or have seen already)

Egg tu Bhandarkar! His angry young prisoner is thrown right into the dark-as-a-burnt-omelette baida cell. During solitary confinement, the prisoner claws the walls, gnashes his teeth, exudes glycerine and generally looks as unhappy as a kid denied a cookie. Sad is life, dearies.
Okay, okay, for heaven’s sake this is a Bhandarkar, Madhur Bhandarkar movie. Get real, appreciate Jail for being as rough, real and dammit, outspoken. Sorry guys, want to..however it’s anything but. It’s just not in the league of the eye-opening Fashion, Traffic Signal, Page 3 and Chandni Bar, which have their loyal admirers including the National Film Award juries. Yeah.
The director is best when he hurtles you into areas where the gloss-and-glamour-junkie filmwalas fail to tread. Dread. Here he doesn’t beyond a point. For sure, he locks you up in the depressing confines of a large prison, shot in Thane and Yervada jails. The visuals are unvarnished, no unnecessary top shots, no pretty daffodils blooming in the garden either.
So as the dialogue often asks..what’s the lafda chirkut?
Simply this: you’ve seen, heard and squirmed through prison atrocity flicks as many times as you’ve wolfed down popcorn. Crunchhhh. Like it or not it’s pouring cliches out here, from the hero finding the prison food ugh-ugh (did he expect sushi?) to the initial undressing parade. Mercifully the much- publicised nude parts – bodily parts that is -- are covered up by pixillated effects. Thanks.
Also, Bhandarkar whose stories-screenplays usually have an element of originality and knuckle-hard strength, in this case can’t prevent the viewer from flashbacking to similar situations from several prison movies: The Shawshank Redemption (the bond between two prisoners from disparate generations), Ek Hasina Thi (an innocent person forced to pay for another’s crimes), Midnight Express (sadism galore) and Teen Deewarein (the harebrained twists and turns in the plot).
And you can bet your last hundred bucks that there will be some gay-bashing: a couple of prison inmates go goo-goo on sighting the hero. Not to forget a shock tactic: an unmentionable tryst between two men in the loo. Woo hooo.
Well, ummm, old habits die hard and all that jazz bazz. Anyway, the focus is on this `chikna’ executive (Neil Nitin Mukesh), whose shifty flatmate happens to be a drug dealer. You knowthat can lead to an a la Bangkok Hilton. It does. Chikna is accused of complicity, dragged to jail and imprisoned. Moanwhile his mother (silent as a tomb) and girlfriend (Mugdha Godse, in a thousand make-up tints) wring their hands, hire a lawyer who’s plain walnuts and sit through court sessions where bail is refused again and again, and again. Pain. Scriptwriter-editor were dozing or what? The pace is slower than peak hour traffic.
In jail, our Innocent Chiknaji meets various stereotypes: a self-styled Mirza Ghalib (insufferable) , a drugged-out creepo responsible for a road accident and a politician holding court. Penty more: a finger flicking underworld don, a recent father who wants his kid to say “abba” (not the music group), and hello there’s Arya Babbar portaying a desperado with so much surma that he resembles a racoon.
Not to forget, not to forget in the crowded scenario there’s the emotionally contained jailbird-turned-prison-butler (Manoj Bajpai). Garbed oddly in buttercup harem pants, Butler sees a surrogate kid brother in Chikna and wants him to retain his ‘umeedein’ despite the odds. The parting scene between them, in fact, is the most sensitively executed moment in this Chandniless Bar.
On the plus side, there are some stray insights like street-dwellers committing petty crimes to find a shelter in prisons during the monsoon. The wind-up statistic about the possible number of ‘innocent’ persons languishing behind bars also hits home. Aah, how you wish the rest of this effort was in the same researched vein.
On the tech side, the cinematography is remarkably fluid. Anil Mohile’s background music tends to be obtrusive, frequently sounding very Godfatherish. The songs are nothing to hum about, no alas not even the devotional track by Lata Mangeshkar.
Of the cast, Neil Nitin Mukesh is as earnest as a Boy Scout, he’s methodical and controlled; there are flashes of an actor of tremendous potential here. Manoj Bajpai by holding his gaze – his eyes are like arrows about to leave a bow – is extraordinary. Jail isn’t. No way.