Cast: Shahid Kapur, Priyanka Chopra
Direction: Vishal Bhardwaj
Rating: *** & 1/2
Young Guddu has his life planned out in a flow-chart: Polytechnic, diploma, naukri (job), tarakki (promotion)... And finally, videsh (abroad). Somewhere in the scheme of things, he has marriage slotted in, but not anytime soon yet. His girlfriend of two months (Priyanka Chopra, disarmingly natural), pregnant with his child, suddenly enters to upset his life’s goals. She demands a wedding, and by the evening. She’s also a parochial ‘Jai Maharashtra’ politician-don’s sister. Guddu bears UP-ite Sharma for a surname. He should soon worry about his funeral as well.<b1>
The boy has an identical twin. That makes Guddu and Charlie, two of a kind: one stammers, the other lisps. But for his dreams, Charlie is a small-time fixer of horse races. He is seeking revenge with his double-crosser. On the sensational night at his archenemy’s hotel-room, he gets mixed up with a fake police bust-up operation, lands himself a cop-car and Rs 10 crore worth of cocaine.
Clearly both look-alike brothers are in trouble. The underworld-funded police catch hold of Guddu instead. The parochial don nabs Charlie. The confusion is complete.
Few plots have so exhilaratingly been laid out with such precise rhythm and inter-cuts. I suspect only a music-composer who’s also a director could synchronise this so well on screen. It’s also taken me about 30 soundtracks to realise that the true successor to RD Burman’s music is Bhardwaj alone. I hadn’t sensed it before. Suddenly that interlude in Beedi Jalai Le, Bhupinder Singh’s track Badalon Se from Satya, and so many other songs make sense. Dhan Te Tan is it, of course. It is no surprise Gulzar’s words blend in so comfortably with Bhardwaj’s melodies even if in another context altogether.
There is such a thing as cinema of the cool. Globally, since we’re in the midst of it, it’s difficult to reflect in hindsight, or give it a definite name (unlike ‘noir’ or ‘neo-realism’). This is where form is at par with the film. Humour is supreme. Characters exist at both unreal and real spaces. Pop-cultural references abound. Violence is comically pornographic. Tarantino, by many accounts, is God. And Lord knows, how many legitimate and illegitimate cinematic children he’s fathered across the world.
This movie belongs to that loved genre under construction. The nuances though are entirely native. The city is Mumbai, in all its ‘Danny Boylish’ grittiness. The inherent world-view is the same: money makes us spin around in circles, “Politics bhi pesha (also a profession), power aur parivaar (and family), purn viraam (full-stop).” A guitar-box that Charlie lugs around is a motif from Robert Rodriguez’s El Mariachi films (another of Tarantino’s sons).
We almost watched zapped as the hero (Shahid Kapur, flat-out brilliant) flits between two characters, crackling his way through a series of curious crooks and kooky situations. It’s a riot, to say the least, and we never question.<b2>
My only nervousness with such films is how at some point they begin to wallow so much in their own cleverness that they lose sight of their character’s motivations. Or (in the case of Hindi films), they begin to explain stuff best left alone. This gets there in parts as well.
Though it appears a minor quibble, it’s still almost last half-hour of the film, where the twin’s background that could’ve been suggested through a snappy dialogue (Abbaji’s past in Maqbool) becomes a long, juvenile short-film: Mera Baap Chor Hai! Given the number of mafias the movie gives birth to — Bengali, African, Marathi… — they’re all killed off callously in an extended farcical battleground.
You feel a bit cheated, when there were characters you wished to spend better quality time with: Charlie’s friend Mikhael, for instance (Chandan Roy, phenomenal as one on ‘charlie’ himself). You feel worse when the last impression
doesn’t live up to the incredible ride.
There’s still nothing to take away from the movement this movie means to Hindi films. Missing it is your own entertainment loss. Given the director’s unfortunate commercial track-record with gems like Maqbool and Omkara, I really hope this time, ‘Vishal overcome!’