Ram Gopal Varmaâs film factory cranks out yet another fascinating look at Mumbaiâs underworld.
JUNE 12, 2005 – IF I WERE THE Government of India, Iâd ban D straightaway. Its hero â anti-hero, really â Deshu, aka âDâ? (Randeep Hooda), is shown smoking, shooting people, bedding his girlfriend (Rukhsar)… Why, they may as well have replaced the popcorn and samosa stands in the theatre with stalls selling cigarettes, bullets and condoms! For isnât that the reasoning these days, that what you see is what you get raring to do?
Fortunately, Iâm just a viewer, and D merely confirms what I already knew based on Satya and Company â that if Ram Gopal Varma says his production house is next doing a movie about the boy in the saloon who trims the bhai logâs nose hair, Iâll be in line. With D, itâs official â Varma is to the underworld what Yash Chopra is to romance, what Karan Johar is to glycerine, what Mahesh Bhatt is to Hollywood DVDs. With D, he once again takes us into Mumbaiâs world of organised crime, and once again makes us a cinematic offer we canât refuse.
Director Vishram Sawant, the latest Varma protÃ©gÃ©, begins with a technique that was used to wonderful effect in Company, of which D is supposedly âa prequel in spirit.â? He lays out the map of the story through an unseen narrator, who makes this startling observation: âIs shahar mein aasman zameen ke neeche hai.â? I think itâs a literal interpretation of the under-world, that thatâs where the people on top are, and what follows is the tale of an outsider becoming an insider and, yes, rising to the top of this underworld.
Just about everything works wonderfully â from the Big Points (Deshu undertook police training earlier; heâs now using those skills on the other side of the law) to the small, throwaway mood shots (when heâs standing in a near-empty train compartment, shirt flapping in the wind), from the heart-stopping (and in one case, heartbreaking) murder sequences to the use of the dynamic score to drown out superfluous dialogue (much of which we can guess anyway) â and if thereâs a shortcoming in D, other than the out-of-nowhere Khud Ko Maar Daala number, itâs that its central conflict isnât as absorbing as the one in Company. In the latter, there was a hint of melancholy around the manslaughter, in the way two friends became foes. It played like Namak Haram with molls, without the morality. But here, Deshu is pitted against the predictably-wastrel sons (Yashpal Sharma, Sushant Singh) of his boss (Goga Kapoor), and itâs an uneven match. Even before the first shot is fired, you know whom youâll be rooting for.
That said, D doesnât exactly cry out for emotional investment from the audience. Perhaps most interesting â and subversive â is its notion that for Deshu, crime is just another business. Thatâs why some of the could-have-been-sensational scenes have all the ho-hum non-energy of watching a filing clerk in his office cubicle. Thatâs why thereâs no defining heroic (or, in this case, anti-heroic) moment like in, say, Shiva, where, the minute Nagarjuna yanks out the cycle chain, you know heâs become The One Whoâll Battle Oppression. âKoi doctor hota hai, koi engineer hota hai… Main gangster hai,â? Deshu shrugs, and this isnât empty bluster. Even when asked to leave his lucrative operations in Mumbai and oversee the less-important Gujarat territory, he doesnât flinch â itâs a job, and heâs simply been handed a transfer order.
This Zen-calmness is perfectly personified by Hooda, and his impassiveness â save for the rare flicker of emotion, as when he grins sheepishly when asked to shower rupee notes on bar girls â is beautifully contrasted with the firebrand volatility of those around him. Yashpal Sharma fulminates as only he can, Sushant Singh conveys a spoilt-boy menace without much dialogue, Goga Kapoor teeters impressively between family and Family, but itâs good-hearted-bad-man Chunkey Pandey whoâs the revelation. Whoâd have imagined that, almost two decades after Tezaab, heâd finally live up to the promise he showed there! Then again, two decades ago, whoâd have imagined that gritty gangster dramas would become one of the most consistently exciting, creatively satisfying genres in love-triangle-obsessed Bollywood!
HUM AAPKE HAIN CON
A movie about a pair of scam artists wants to steal your hearts, and it does… somewhat.
JUNE 5, 2005 – AS BUNTY AUR BABLI OPENS, Amitabh Bachchan speaks of two Indias â the small towns that folks like Rakesh (Abhishek Bachchan) and Vimmi (Rani Mukerji) live in, and the big cities they dream of making a livelihood in â and itâs soon clear that this split personality isnât just in the country. Itâs in the second personas Rakesh and Vimmi adopt â that of Bunty and Babli â and itâs in the movie itself, which seesaws between Chitchor and Chacha Bhatija, part laidback small-town charmer, part frantic Manmohan Desai caper.
A director attempting such a seemingly unholy narrative mix is either very brave or very foolish â but initially, Shaad Ali Sahgal just seems very talented, with a real feel for the India of the Amol Palekars and the Zarina Wahabs. He underscores family tension with a heart-warming bit of background detail where a mother, hanging out clothes to dry, hears her husband and son argue, and presses down so hard that the clothesline collapses. Then, in Shankar-Ehsaan-Loyâs delightfully earthy Chhote Chhote Shehron Se number, Gulzar writes â as only Gulzar can â Oh zara rasta to do, thoda sa baadal chakhna hai, about making way for Rakeshâs sky-high ambitions, and the decidedly earthbound visual shows him stuck on a bicycle, a herd of goats blocking his path. This isnât just a contrast between dreams and reality; itâs a case study of how songs can be used to stress themes in the script!
The dialogues are just right (âChai banate ho?â? Rakesh asks a boy in a tea stall, who retorts, âNahin. Pilata hoon.â?), the settings are just right (a railway station feels so dingy, so… real) â then, suddenly, the movie veers into Manmohan Desai-land and becomes all wrong. As small-town simpletons Rakesh-Vimmi become big-city swindlers Bunty-Babli, it isnât just Rani who flounders, in manic situations that Sridevi or Juhi Chawla would have polished off in their sleep. (Sheâs good with the drama, though.) Even the song picturisations lose their charm â the lovely Chup Chup Ke is set amidst that oldest of clichÃ©s, snow-capped peaks, and the dance-floor Nach Baliye is a bit of a horror, with Raniâs unexpectedly jiggly midriff making her look like a doll-sized Huma Khan.
Bunty and Babli are conmen (conpersons?), whose scams include the selling of the Taj Mahal amidst a protest march where a placard reads, âMain meri biwi se pareshaan hoon.â? This sort of thing needs a Desai-like conviction in the absurd, and Sahgal just doesnât have it. Heâs great with the intimate stuff â Rakesh-Vimmiâs meeting while waiting for a train, their realisation of being in love (when time stops for them, but Mumbai doesnât stop moving around them), Rakeshâs quiet contentment upon seeing his name in the papers â but in the idiotic bits, thereâs no energy, no pace. For a movie about con artists, the cons are the weakest parts.
Luckily, Amitabh Bachchan turns up as a cop after Bunty and Babli. (Bachchan Jr. is very good, but Bachchan Sr. shows, in every imaginable way, why heâs Abhishekâs baap.) After a dhamaal entry, lighting his bidi with a counterfeit note, he does a great drunk scene, he has a hilarious slapstick encounter with Lilliput, and he sportingly serenades a sensational Aishwarya Rai (doing her sauciest jhatkas since Ishq Kameena). With the energy from that number, he almost single-handedly gets the movie back on track, back to its small-town roots â so, looking back, it isnât surprising that Bunty aur Babli starts well, loses itself in the middle, and finally finds its way back into our hearts. Itâs simply repaying the Big Bâs invaluable contribution with a nod to his career trajectory.
Copyright Â©2005 The New Sunday Express