An encounter with minimum novelty
Direction: Kabeer Kaushik
Actors: Sonu Sood, Naseeruddin Shah, Mohan Agashe
Can we all agree that Bollywood has squeezed as much cinema as is humanly possible out of Mumbai’s infamous encounter cops, their weasel-faced informers and the police-politician-builder-underworld nexus? Can these subjects be embargoed for the next five years so that viewers get a break from grim men gunning down other grim men in dark alleys? And while we are at it, let’s ban girls jiggling in dance bars too.
In Maximum, director Kabeer Kaushik takes all of the above and fashions it into a cautionary tale about two power-hungry, corrupt encounter specialists. Pratap Pandit, played by Sonu Sood, is the young turk who challenges the supremacy of the equally blood-thirsty Arun Inaamdar, played by Naseeruddin Shah. Their rivalry is used and abused by their seniors and juniors, a don and a wily politician. Everyone shoots at each other until they all fall down.
Kaushik, who earlier made the police drama Sehar, is clearly enamoured by these men. Pratap is a rockstar cop who invariably walks in glorifying slow-motion, has a loving wife and child, but is also living it up with Bollywood belles and bar dancers, and doesn’t so much speak as pronounce judgment with inordinately long pauses. Using his imposing physicality to full effect, Sood mostly postures while Shah slums it. He keeps a fixed snarling expression for much of the film.
Kaushik has also written the film but he seems more interested in style than substance. There is little character delineation or growth. It’s all about being gritty and cool. So characters deliver lines such as ‘bada game khelo’ or ‘what a player.’ Slow motion shots of birds flying over Maximum City are frequently used to connect scenes. Kaushik effectively captures the crowds and frenetic energy but little here is compelling or new. All the usual Mumbai sights are ticked off — local trains, the Ganesh Chaturthi festival, Marine Drive lashed by the rains. Too early in the film, fatigue sets in and the strangely inert plot doesn’t help to alleviate it.
Maximum has stray moments of power but the film feels like a Ram Gopal Varma rehash; mercifully though there are no cameras zooming into teacups like there were in Varma’s recently released Department, which was also about power-hungry, corrupt encounter specialists.
We really need an embargo.
(You can watch Anupama Chopra review the latest releases on The Front Row, every Friday at 8.30 pm on Star World)