2 May 2007 | ajji-2
Great little film-noir from Bollywood!
This recent Bollywood film had been lurking around the shops and I'd hear people refer to it as a 'different' 'offbeat' or 'art' film, not the usual 'masala' entertainment at all. Even though I fully realize that the hey-day of the Indian parallel cinema is over, I do keep on the lookout for the odd experiment or mixing of genres that filmmakers attempt every so often. Well, this turned out to be a hugely underrated little gem. It's off-beat alright, and doesn't have any silly musical numbers that plague the more mainstream Indian films. But what most reviewers and critics have failed to point out about it, is that it is really a good old-fashioned 'film noir', (albeit minus the moody lighting, and with a generous dose of humor) given a bit of post-modern sheen. It's a little too soft-edged (read: wholesome) and could have been a bit more atmospheric, but I suppose that for a first-time attempt, this is pretty good. The script is not as twisty or clever as it may seem at first (certainly won't fool any experienced film-noir buff), and I even guessed the 'big reveal' at the end, long before it came. But these minor quibbles do not get in the way of a thoroughly enjoyable tale, with many finely etched, memorable scenes (including a bizarre dream sequence). The performances vary, and the director seems unsure of the tone he wants his actors to take, but overall they are all good. Honey Chayya is particularly outstanding as the semi-senile old man Sethna. Naseeruddin Shah is wasted as the pot-head pottery maestro, but he plays the role well enough. Dimple Kapadia is a perfect portrait of a shrill, conniving, slutty middle-aged housewife. But Simone Singh is a little too pure and straight-laced (even when she's being shown 'rebelling' behind her hubby's back). Saif Ali Khan is just fine as the protagonist. All in all, a great little comedy/drama/thriller that doesn't outstay it's welcome, and at 83 minutes, is paced quite efficiently. No surprises for noir fans, but a pleasant enough ride through somewhat familiar territories, and an unexpected gem from the outskirts of Bollywood.