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REVIEW: Johnny Gaddaar

Despite the intense and sturdy performance of newcomer Neil Mukesh, Sriram Raghavan's Johnny Gaddaar seems more of a slick potpourri of pulp fiction references, opines Khalid Mohamed.

movie reviews Updated: Sep 28, 2007 23:41 IST
Khalid Mohamed
Khalid Mohamed
Hindustan Times

Johnny Gaddaar
Cast: Dharmendra, Neil Nitin Mukesh
Direction: Sriram Raghavan
Rating: ***

Roar, just get Rs 1 crore. Move through every club, pub, soak in a bath tub but here comes the rub. Your best buddy may turn out to be cruddy. Backstabbing is the name of the game. Shame shame.

That’s Sriram Raghavan’s Johnny Gaddaar, abetted by cameraman Muraleedharan CK, more stylish than any Fashion Week but.. oh hell.. in terms of plot coherence it’s Latin and Greek. Getting into Raghavan’s mind is half the fun. Gulp, the guy’s a pulp fiction junkie, going gaga about everything that moves from Johnny Mera Naam (hence the title), Parwana (Bachchan antique) and a songlet from Bimal Roy’s Bandini to James Hadley Chase novels. Phew, this must be Indian cinema’s first spot-the-reference exercise. Samjha kya bhidoo? <b1>

Okay, so the zig-zag screenplay takes a while to settle. Plus, there are far too many shots of railway station and, airport sign boards and a gazillion close-ups of characters going leer-leer. Oh dear, Raghavan bhai, David Lynch ya Quentin Tarantino Tera Naam, kya?

Enough grumbled. Actually, just chill guys and take this caper as a director’s homage to the movies and mysteries he loves (mercifully, he’s avoided John Woo’s flapping doves). Truly, the form is simply fantastic, what with the jump cuts, swipes, crane swoops and creative lighting schemes. Hey, so taste the Techno Cola.

If you’re okay with that, you’ll go with Tricky Vicky (Neil Nitin Mukesh). The golden-stubbled boy is into some kind of gang heist which inevitably goes ding dong wrong. Next: more hoodlums than you can count from a novel by Ludlum, fall all over the place like dandruff.

Tricky’s mentor is the good ole Dharmendra (excellent). As for the other heist honchos, they seem as if they’d sensibly kept away from Ram Gopal Varma’s Aag to giggle, gaggle and gurgle all over the neon-lit scenes here.

<b2>Of them, Vinay Pathak as a hardcore sharpie is especially impressive; you see his softer side when he’s pressing the feet of his beauty salonwalli wife (Ashwini Kalsekar, inspired). Oh and for the heroine quotient, there’s Rimi who comes to life only for a fleeting kitchenette moment when she stir fries vegetables. Otherwise, she’s bland as hospital soup.

In the second-half, the nearly-forgotten Govind Namdeo is a delight as a creepy cop, disclosing a distinct flair for comedy. But was that finger-castrating bit of violence at all necessary? Right, the Coen Brothers have done it too. But really, Raghavan should just stop watching too many movies and pop up with an original, straight-from-real-life screenplay. Please?

When he does that, you know he’ll give the Bhansalis and the Mehras a run for their money. Till then, he’ll be a slick technician identified with wondrous visuals and a pulsating soundtrack. Come to think of it, that’s saying quite a lot in this day and age of drivel really. And oh yes, he must be thanked for introducing Neil Nitin Mukesh who’s intense, sturdy and cool. Fingers crossed for the future -- an actor of potential is born.

First Published: Sep 28, 2007 17:41 IST