Cast: Bobby Deol, Dwij Yadav
Direction: Samir Karnik
Really, it’s enough to blow your pressure cooker. His novella is actually awarded the International Booker. Yup, the same literary prize snagged in recent years by Kiran Desai, Arundhati Roy and the patriarch-turned-prose-genius Amitabh Bachchan in Baghbaan. What a yarn!
The new winner is Vikram Singh aka Nanhe Jaisalmer, directed and written (oh oh, what about those allegations of snitching by another writer?) by Samir Karnik. Kyun controversy ho gaya naa?
Alas, there’s nothing remotely literary or controversial about what you eventually sample in this flashbuk-buk by Vicky Singh. No zing, Vicks just catches hold of a shocked electrician at a hotel’s banquet hall to narrate his memoir. Hmm, it’s about a camel-riding Rajasthan tourist guide kiddo (Dwij Yadav) who looks as if he’d be happier at home playing Ludo. Eeeps.
Anyway, the 10-year-old desert boy knows a smattering of French, German, Latin and fenugreek. Snag: he’s uneducated in ka-kha-ga-gha and so goes duh-duh. This despite the militant attempts of his morose mum, didi and a heftier version of Gayatri Devi, to make him attend night school. Incidentally, this masti ki paathshala is populated by an ancient gent who goes haw-haw-haw and dear old Sharat Saxena who keeps drinking from quarter bottles of rum? Life’s glum.
<b1>But there’s a tinsel lining. Camel boy is Asia’s biggest ceiling fan of Bobby Deol the actor (played by Bobby Deol the actor).
Next: you’re subjected to teasers from Abby-Mustan’s Soldier; the kid claps, whistles and generally goes berserk till Bobby D shows up in person. Gratifyingly, the bonhomie between the two is life-affirming. How wonderful – a star and a desert boy actually bond as equals! Sweet.
If only Karnik’s writing had developed this emotional aspect of an otherwise gaga screenplay. Alas, there’s something much too gratuitous about the kid giving up his gutka chewing habit, beating up a junior Gulshan Groverish bully, exhuming his fear of mice (how nice?), becoming an exemplary scholar and heavens, growing up to become a purely wooden Vatsal Seth (from the forgotten Tarzan The Blunder Car or something). Oof. And for the last straw, there’s that cracko-wacko Booker acceptance speech. Please!
Like it or not, the boy is even turned into a stereotyped angry child-man, what with the Deewar-like humiliating tattoo emblazoned on his hand. Surely, Karnik could have stressed upon the innocence and guilelessness of the boy instead of making him a cross between Bachchan and Guddi. Oh well.
If you don’t sprint out of the auditorium, it’s only because of the emphasis placed on the need for a national literacy programme (girl children are conspicuous by their absence though).
Plus, Dwij Yadav is endearing; the child has the most fluroscent smile since Madhuri Dixit’s. Bobby Deol, too, invests a glowingly warm quality to his part, almost as if he were reliving moments with his own son.
On the debit side, Binod Pradhan’s cinematography of the magnificent Jaisalmer vistas are ordinary. Himesh Reshammiya’s music is unhummable. And the direction relies far too much on swooping crane shot takings.
Bottomline: this odd enterprise is neither a children’s film nor an entertainer for spectators of all ages. It’s not worth losing your pressure cooker for its bizarre Booker.