Kaminey: A Ballad Darkly Tuesday, 25 August, 2009Posted by ~uh~™ in Bollywood.
Tags: Amole Gupte, Bhau, Bhope, censor, Certificate, ch*tiye, Chandan Roy Sanyal, Climax, dark, Desi, drama, Film, gangster, genre, hindi, Kaminey, Masala, Mikhail, Mumbai, political, Priyanka Chopra, Review, Shahid Kapoor, Train
This review was first published on PFC [link]
For me there will always be a difference in experience between watching a film on big screen, on the immediate weekend after its release compared to watching it after reading many reviews, seeing it on DVD. Because of my lack of knowledge, experience and panache to observe the nuances and minutiae of this medium of art and expression. Unfailingly, I tend to form an opinion from others viewpoint, build-up expectations or more detrimentally, become biased.
Thus, I normally try to avoid reading many reviews before watching a movie just to keep my mind free from any bias or expectations. However, for Kaminey it was entirely a different trip. I have never had the privilege to witness any Director’s perspective on his movie before watching it, leave alone attend a discussion between two Directors, who have imprinted their style in contemporary Indian cinema, in person, in real time. So, when the two directors started discussing the film in animated excitement, I gulped it down like a greedy pig. Because, having missed the discussion, I would have now been writing the script of Flashbacks of a Fool- Part Deux.
Evolution of ‘Hindi movie’ has always been based on certain modus operandi, saving a handful of exception, which rather proved the norm. Movies which were not formula based were a copy/ lift/ inspiration or termed as ‘Art film’. So Commercial Hindi cinema, also known as ‘Mainstream Bollywood’ or ‘Escapist Entertainment’, always typified the certain formula, albeit modernized with time.
The formula broadly delved on love story, family drama, twin siblings/ reincarnations, political drama, cop/ gangster/ terrorist, horror/ comedy (of late it’s difficult to distinguish between them). With the winning formula combined with muscular hunks, foreign locations, underdressed zeroines, numerous song and dance sequences, they were sure to entertain a section of the audience. The other kind of audience drooled over Tarantino, Ritiche and Rodriguezor, to satisfy their appetite for dark wit and flamboyant violence. Then happened Kaminey and things did not look the same anymore.
[This para is not in PFC review] The basic plot revolved around separated twin brothers Guddu and Charlie (Shahid Kapoor), Guddu’s girlfriend and mother of his child Sweety (Priyanka Chopra), her headstrong regionalist politico brother Bhope Bhau (Amole Gupte). A huge consignment of coke deal goes bad and Guddu and Charlie gets entangled in a nexus of corrupt cops, international drug peddlers, Bengali race fixer Mafioso and henchmen of Bhope. A bloody chase for power and money ensues while love and blood bonding floats above all.
Kaminey to me is an absolutely desi and dark director’s cut of our times, which does justice to the medium of art/expression as well as makes commercial sense. Vishal Bharadwaj uses elements of the time tested formula and imbues them in the film in his unique way. The story is a not so subtle statement on Indian politics and corruption at the metropolis underbelly, under the subtext of classical vulnerable romance. What is subtle is how he interweaves dream like sequences within harsh reality and creates a ballad, wrinkle free and acid washed.
The aspects of Kaminey which made me see the movie once again-
Political undertone- The statements on politics, corruption and exploitation may not be new in intent but surely in presentation. In a necropolis, neither the criminals are glorified nor are the cops. At the end of the day the people are constituent of a symbiotic scum, corroding the moral values to the core and celebrating it with vada pao and modak. When values are traded and negotiated like vegetables, it’s the kaminey who walks up the victory stand.
Childhood memoirs- The guns in the hands of Bhope Bhau and Mikhail seemed like toys, when they play the game of death with innocent ‘dhishkaon’ to each other. The mention of Bela-Bahadur and champak immediately took me to my days of Indrajaal Comics. Violence was a child, once upon a time. That’s why the eccentric Bengali dadas not only refuse to grow up, but chose their lethal weapons with childish ecstasy.
Black Humour- Now this is not everyone’s glass of blood. How violence becomes comic and death brings a smile, are illustrated in this movie. Picking up the humorous killing scenes and describing them would be a criminal offence and killing of the humour itself, so I refrain. Those who love comic books may get the drift.
Dialouges- Each and every sentence uttered by the characters reflected the idiosyncrasy, humour and the strata of the society the characters represent. Usage of original mother tounge by the characters further makes it a treat for the audience, who understands it. I can vouch that the Bengali dialogues were one of the best in the movie, not just because it’s in Bengali but the contextual sarcasm in which they work. For your information, ‘Sonamoni’, mukhta ektu kholo dekhini’ [ o my sweetpie, open your mouth please] and ‘O amar Sontumunu pushuta’ are the sweet nothings a Bengali mother affectionately uses to nurse and cuddle her baby.
Influences- Some of us, who are little overdosed with international films, tend to seek the ‘inspiration’ or ‘tribute’ to a context, or a scene, and then analyze it so deeply, which probably even the Director never had any clue of. Just because a film is structured as non-linear narrative and talks about a wristwatch doesn’t mean a simile with Pulp Fiction, similarly to El mariachi because of a Guitar and Guy Ritchie because of multiple gangsters chasing a large booty moving. However, I must confess, some of the elements used, did remind me some films of foreign origin. For example the masked figures in the song Fatak reminded me the death procession on Once Upon A Time in Mexico., the climax shootout reminded me of Desparado, Mikhail’s long hair and sniffing style reminded me of Banderas of El Mariachi and Pacino from Scarface.
Symbolism and Surrealism- The delirium of Charlie and the jump cuts to his childhood and Mikhails deadbody in his father’s place was subconscious acceptance of guilt, which , in most probability was intentional. But Guddu’s walk along the railway track over the corpses while half-dead people are trying to grab his feet was surreal to me- I was simultaneously surprised, shocked and disturbed, but ‘felt’ the scene in my psyche. Quite an anarchist poetry in celluloid.
Characters performances- Priyanka Chopra , Amole Gupte, Chandan Roy’s performances are etched in stone. Rajatava Datta and Deb Mukherjee as the Bengali dadas are brilliant too. I liked Tenzing Lama as Tashi too, he had the right attitude to like bitches over dogs. Shahid Kapoor’s dual role as Guddu and Charlie gives us some hope, that stars may not need to build up a image of romantic or action hero but can do character roles. Our cinema needs characters, we have seen enough heroism.
Overall, a superior and entertaining cinema with masala plot, great music, fabulous casting, cult characters, brilliant cinematography and a new flavour which sets the Hindi film standards up there, that would change the meaning of ‘average’.
However, I did have my feeling of discontent with Kaminey, even being aware of the director’s thought behind certain elements.
Dilution/ comic reliefs- The high standard of twisted humour, though fairly consistent does degrade a bit at places, especially with that Lele character at the climax.
Make up- looking at it from pure practical point of view there should have been some marked difference between the twin brothers, representing their upbringing. Atleast, Guddu would have been given a shorter hair cut.
Climax- The climax was a big letdown and it was clear that it’s been brutally edited to fit the film into a time limit. Such climax, panned with wide angle camera, rendered with the number Rasta Hai Jo Sasta Hai Wo would have been a masterpiece, a metaphoric epic like end. The silhouette against the setting sun and the gunfire sparks looked like a painter’s canvas and I wanted more. But, it ended like a rushed up 80’s potboiler, with a clichéd message – Alls well that ends well. The ending clearly disappointed me. It was like the fragile David of art was defeated by the commercial Goliath. The ballad gets asphyxiated.
Certification- Was that A certification some kind of joke? Some contemporary movies get released with an U certification which feature cleavages as deep as ATM slots, display human flesh like PETA adverts, item numbers that would enable premature ejaculation to coma patients, leave alone the Sulabh Sauchalay grade innuendos, while I cringe into my seat, as my 9 year old son doesn’t even find them funny. But Kaminey gets a big A, because our respected censor board does not want to talk about condom and thinks Kaminey is a bad word, so is Pilibhit.
I sincerely request the film fraternity to give censor board another chance, by making Ch*tiye.