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Review: Sankat City

This is another of those half-born progenies of an off-kilter genre made cooler by the Tarantino’s or Guy Ritchie’s in the West, says Mayank Shekhar.

movie reviews Updated: Jul 11, 2009 14:08 IST
Mayank Shekhar

Sankat City
Cast: Kay Kay Menon, Anupam Kher
Direction: Pankaj Advani
Rating: ***

Pankaj Advani’s little-known film Urf Professor came roughly seven years back. It may be dated by now. The peanut-budget black comedy, shot on digital camera, curiously followed a potbellied hitman (Manoj Pahwa) around Mumbai’s underbelly.

It was made under Digital Talkies, Shekhar Kapur’s fairly utopian film production idea, based out of KG Marg in Delhi. Zee, a relatively adventurous TV station then, had picked up some such experimental flicks, slipped delicious profanities past the censors, and put them up on air in an obscure late-night slot once. No one noticed. If you had, like me, you may have also have looked forward to Advani’s picture-imperfect first feature. In its zaniness, it doesn’t disappoint.

This is another of those half-born progenies of an off-kilter genre made cooler by the Tarantino’s or Guy Ritchie’s in the West.

The leading man (Kay Kay Menon) lives in a shanty, with a poster of Gone In 60 Seconds on his wall. He loves fish — collecting, not eating them. His prized catches are cars picked up from the streets, which he spray-paints overnight, and pawns off by morning. Of course, it’s only in the movies that everyone leaves behind their car keys at the ignition, almost every time they step out.

Much of this movie is about what happens in the movies alone. And that’s what you may love about this comic-caper most. It’s a series of caricatures that bind together a circular plot, which is in turn is spun around, as you’d guess, a sack-full of cash (or two cases, as it were), being passed around through the film.

Along Mumbai’s gutters, you bump into a hilarious beer-guzzling spiritual baba with homosexual tendencies, a Punjabi builder, Bengali seductress, Hyderabadi hero-double, B-grade producer, his third-rate assistant. Each chases the fast buck. Over this circus, lords a crackling don (Anupam Kher). Kher brilliantly reprises his Inspector Girdhar — the inimitable character in Mukul Anand’s Hum (1991) — from a time the actor hadn’t become synonymous with film raw stock.

The beauty of the narrative, as it unravels, is how every unrelated cartoon-figure finds its way into, and out of, the rounded mess. There is a fresh bend every minute. Sometimes you even disregard the original context the characters had appeared in. Tracing the plot backward seems harder still. Yet, you just carry on relishing the sweet camp.

Shashank Ghosh’s Waisa Bhi Hota Hai Part 2 was a similar spoof, with caricatures even superior. Somehow the doodle of a notebook’s back-pages didn’t string into a whole there. This is a sudoku puzzle, where the numbers somehow add up. Or seem to. That’s all you should expect, or care about. Meanwhile, you laugh at yet another latest twist.