Shor In The City
Director: Raj Nidimoru, Krishna DK
Actors: Sendhil Ramamurthy, Tushar Kapoor
For a nation of a gazillion English readers, where 3,000 copies of a book sold is deemed a bestseller, pirates who publish the same books to hawk around the city’s traffic junctions couldn’t be doing too well either. Tilak (Tushar Kapoor) is one such lower middle class publisher, if you may. He evidently loves his job. He’d like to move up in the social hierarchy, from a motorbike, to a Nano. He finds that ladder in the film’s opening scene.
Tilak, along with his two best buddies, both 'chindi chors' (small-time thieves: Nikhil Dwivedi, Pitobash Tripathi) break into a celebrated author’s Mercedes Benz. They demand the writer to pass them on the manuscript of his next, much awaited novel. Tilak intends to sell that book on the streets, even before it makes it to bookstores. The author, at gunpoint, agrees. His name, by the way, is Chetan Gandhi.
This goofiness, for lack of a better word, is very Guy Ritchie. The tone gets immediately set. Soon after, the three boys get into a suburban train; steal a passenger’s bag. Their booty, it turns out, consists of hardcore ammunitions. Though the guns don’t quite look like AK 47 or AK 56, which is the ongoing debate, they’re Kalashnikovs all right. And there’s a bomb in there too.
The richly textured pic pretty much plays out like a stream of consciousness. Anything presumably can happen in a so-called happening city. Mumbai is the indisputable protagonist. Its pulse gets read reasonably well. Camera ably captures the strolling metropolis, right from the vast stretch of snogging lovers off Bandra flyover, to the craziness of an orchestra bar, or tourist trappers on Colaba’s flea market causeway.
It’s the sort of exhausting experience visitors from abroad often politely call “overwhelming”. Sendhil Ramamurthy plays one such expatriate. He’s returned to India to become a small-time entrepreneur. As anyone in that corruptibly precarious position would tell you, either the goons will get him, or the government or some other power-tripping authorities will. It’s the former in his case. It’s the latter for another gent - a young local boy - who must bribe his selector to make it to the cricket team.
Somehow the separate stories of Tilak and everyone else (all of them inspiringly cast) intertwine over Ganesh Chaturthi: a noisy ten-day festival which itself was popularised in Mumbai by another Tilak (Bal Gangadhar, back in the late 1800s). Ganesh visarjan in Mumbai is without doubt the world's largest open-air party to annually take up every nook and cranny of a city’s streets. It could be a public nuisance if you’re not the willing participant. Cops are on high alert. But that’s something you wouldn’t figure if you saw what these fellows in the film are up to on that day.
What you do notice about this quintessentially metropolis movie is its sheer spunk, verve and adorably absurd humour. It belongs to two low-profile directors (Raj Nidimoru, Krishna DK) whose last film (99) went unnoticed because apparently audiences were busy following the IPL tournament on TV. They bring to the edit table the sort of spirit that embodied the best of British independent cinema in the ‘90s (Full Monty, Trainspotting etc). Which also defined the early works of two other fine filmmakers who, like them, made that precious move from Andhra to Andheri (Nagesh Kukunoor, Ram Gopal Varma).
Shor, or constant noise, is clearly the irrepressible energy of the Mumbai air. Was Suketu Mehta’s stupendous Maximum City a film, it’d come close to this. No prizes for guessing, pirate Tilak is really fond of Paulo Coelho’s Alchemist!