A Twist in the Tale of 2 Cities: 99 Movie Review Thursday, 21 May, 2009Posted by ~uh~™ in Bollywood.
Tags: 99, Anupam Mittal, Boman Irani, comedy, Crime, Cyrus Broacha, Dimple, Guy Ritchie, Humour, Indie movies, Krishna DK, Kuber, Kunal Khemu, Mahesh Manjrekar, Mobile, movie, Mumbai, New Delhi, Period Film, Raj Nidimoru, Review, Soha Ali Khan, Vinod Khanna
I have studied, worked and lived in Delhi from 1996 to 2007. I was actually present there in Delhi through 99 and Y2k, when those thick pencil box shaped Siemens and Motorola handsets were launched with incoming call Rs 16 and outgoing Rs 32/ minute. We had to pull out the antenna and walk to a ‘better signal area’ for getting better call clarity. I have also met many Pujas and Nehas in Delhi, I have also been cheated at many occasions; starting with the auto rickshaw-wala to the landlord to the boss. Though Delhi sucks, it has its own charm radically different from other metros.
Now, after 5 years of staying in Mumbai I have realized the basic differences between the two cities.
In Mumbai: Time is calculated in Rupees. Distances are calculated in hrs. Everything else is theory.
In Delhi: Show off even if you need to beg, borrow or steal to do that. Trust is a myth.
That’s why I liked 99, for capturing the essence of these two cities without losing the humour or focus, while telling the story.
99 is an indie film written and directed by Krishna DK and Raj Nidimoru ( Software Engineers turned filmmakers) and produced by People Pictures (Anupam Mittal and Aditya Shastri ). Krishna DK made ripples in US with his first indie venture Flavours (a film on Indian techies working on US, genre – comedy) which is not released in India yet. Read what Krishna DK has to say about his journey from Flavours to 99.
In short, the story is about money, gambling, goons, small time crooks, Dons, Bhais, petty thiefs, Cricket, Delhi, Mumbai, cell phones and mobile technology all interwoven accidentally into the lives of Sachin (Khemu) and Zaramud (Cyrus). Those who have seen Guy Ritchie crime comedy capers like Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and Snatch, they will get the drift. Sachin & Zaramud (yes that was a name) are on the run since their small business of ‘sim card duplication’ is busted by the cops. They steal the Merc of AGM (Mahesh Manjrekar), a local ganglord, and bang it to a lamppost and a truck in succession, in the effort of fleeing with élan. AGM force bonds the duo as his accomplice till compensation is recovered towards the damaged Merc. On a parallel story Rahul (Boman Irani), a Delhi based compulsive gambler is desperate to win from a cricket betting to make it big and to settle his existing debts to Kuber (Amit Mistry)- a Delhi crook. After few failed betting attempts Rahul lands up owing big booty to almost everyone. The storytelling smoothly shifts from Mumbai to Delhi. Sachin, Zaramud and Rahul all are in the need of money to save their ass from AGM, teams up making a plan to exploit clout of JC, a big time Cricket match fixer. What happens at the end should be best to watch out at the theatres.
Ninety Nine part Inspiration
The best part of the movie would have to be a combination of cast and the intrinsic humour embedded into the characters. Most notable idiosyncratic performances are delivered brilliantly by Boman Irani, Mahesh Manjrekar and Amit Mistry. I wasn’t very impressed with the lead duo. Kunal lacked the ‘thing’ to fit into the shoes of Sachin, he dangled somewhere in between a tough tapori and sophisticated conman. Ritesh Deshmukh or Arshad Warsi probably comes into my mind who sets a benchmark for such roles. I think, Khemu is yet to recover from Silsila mode (Traffic Signal). I have not seen Zakhm, but the less we talk about him in Dhol & Superstar, is better.
Cyrus Broacha has successfully made a potato-sack out of him and he seems to be encashing on it. He is so hungry in the film, that he swallowed most of his dialogues, even before they are delivered completely. Also a discounted fee (cost reduction) might be the reason for him spending most of the screen time inside the loo. His running and hitting a lamppost scene (shown on the promos) was perfect, though. Overall, a great potential partially wasted.
Boman, as a sucked-up-in-debt Rahul portrays his never-say-lose attitude, throughout the performances. His mobile phone conversations with Kuber, waiting outside in-laws apartment door and persuading his wife, the discussion on the pretext of gifting a mobile phone is a treat to watch.
Kuber with his sidekick Dimple, a gentle giant probably takes the cake of characterization. Whenever they were present on screen, it was a hilarious affair. Those with Delhi experience will vouch that Amit Mistry represented a typical Delhi thug, innocent in looks, comical in action but as dangerous as it gets. The artist who played the Bhojpuri hero ( I remember to see him in some adverts) is also subtle but hilarious is their character portrayal.
Mahesh Manjrekar rocks with his Maratha beard and tapori lingo. The delicate moments of laughter is created as he outperformed his role as AGM.
When I saw Vinod Khanna first on the promos, I was pleasantly surprised and in the movie he was a treat to watch. His encounters with Boman are subtle yet powerful.
Puja (Soha Ali) was a tad disappointment as Sachin’s love interest, am not sure whether to blame the script or the editing, it felt as if she was doing favour to the role. As a support role as Rahul’s estranged wife Simone Singh was sweet.
Dialogues are quick witted and the humour is sharp, tounge-in-cheek. The Director Krishna DK surely had his details in place and it shows. The mobile phone models, the meter-less Ambassador taxis, Snake game ver1 and 2, Y2K conference, the reference to Matrix, Palika Bazaar, the petty crimes, the signal problem of mobile (incidentally in Monsoon Wedding also this signal problem was captured humorously), the comforter hanging over Dimple’s safari suit- small meaningful brushstrokes of Delhi life were painted on the plot canvas to make the picture look complete. The background score is upbeat and well synched with the pace of the movie.
Another exceptionally good treatment to mention are the title credits. They are shown in a very interesting way & you will miss it, if you reach late to the theater. The names of the cast appear on the parapets of landmark buildings of Mumbai. The best was when a name appeared on the level crossing with people crossing over it. Cool graphics.
Any Idea which Hotel was it? Looked like Le Meridian to me.
One part perspiration
It was not shown, how Sachin and Zaramud were dressing up in fancy clothes even after losing all their belongings. That was a little unexplained loose end in the otherwise taut script.
Cyrus was under-utilized and did not match my expectations. I have seen him compeering shows and he is extremely free and spontaneous in real life and doesn’t mumble.
Soha was stiff and they did not look like a pair at any stage. Even if there was any Chemistry between Khemu & Soha, it was purely inorganic. Their intimacy seemed to have progressed geometrically, without any convincing reason (like money, sex or flashy cars, the works basically). Platonic love in Delhi? You must be kidding.
What the hell was the bong guy impractically named ‘Jonmodin’ (Birthday)? Bengalis have funnier names like Horipodo or Khogen or from the famous proverb Gouri Sen ( lage taka debe Gouri Sen- When you need money Gouri Sen would shell out).
Sudesh Beri-The forgotten stud appears as a police inspector, with a facial expression of constipation combined with prolonged heavy protein diet.
The 140 minutes seemed a bit stretched, ideally 110-120 mins would have been a more power packed ride. Few of the Boman-Simone, Kunal- Soha conversations and some other slow scenes could have been edited.
Overall, an excellent Sunday entertainment for crime comedy lovers and a welcome break from bland love stories and slapstick comedy (of errors) of Hindi Cinema. Take your friends, family and kids bindaas, for a laugh ride.