26 September 2013 | abhishek-theoutsider
Chandan gets an offer for a project in Prague. On the surface, he is happy but deep within haunts him a guilt that will have changed him forever.
I watched Prague at a Critics Preview and was quite pleasantly surprised.
The thriller is a rare genre in Indian cinema, let alone a psychological one. It is a difficult genre to capture in reel and very few attempts have been made in Bollywood. Filmmakers lack imagination. Like everything in a capitalistic setup, movies are judged by how much money they make. Talent, as Irrfan's character puts it in 'The Lunchbox', has no value in the country and the average moviegoer is happy to be distracted every Friday with some 'Masti'. Bollywood is nothing but a microcosm of the Indian democracy.
Prague, therefore, needs to be celebrated. It is a sincere film at many levels and the director must take the kudos for making this film within the humongous constraints he faced being a new comer making a low budget film. Made at a modest budget of about 2 Crores, it attempts to break out of the mold. Written my Sumit Saxena, the co-writer of 'Pyar Ka Punchnama', the story takes you on the guilt trip in the mind of the lead Chandan (played by Chandan Roy Sanyal of 'Kaminey' fame) who fights the demons in his own mind, demons borrowed from the mind of Dostoyevsky's Raskolnikov from 'Crime and Punishment' given shape in the form of the characters of Arfi (played by Arfi Lamba) and Gulshan (played by the impressive and cool débutant Mayank Kumar). Throw in a couple of women (Shubhangi played by Sonia Bindra and the gypsy Elena played by Elena Kazan) and the theme involving desire, love and Chandan's irreconcilable feeling of guilt, and the film takes you on a ride that gathers pace and becomes a roller coaster as one goes along. The story is psychologically taut. The movie opens in Mumbai and shifts to Prague where the city's layered deep character merges with that of Chandan's while its superficial nonchalance is echoed on Mayank's character Gulshan. The three main characters around whom the movie revolves are architecture students who would be a psychologist's delight. The reason Prague works is because of its characters, specially Chandan who has acted superbly in the film, his expressions a connoisseurs delight.
Chandan portrays the young lead character with the élan of a veteran and passion that makes you feel with him, each emotion that he portrays. Elena is cute and makes you believe in the honesty of the character she plays. The surprise package is the débutant Mayank Kumar who plays the coolest character of them all with his unkempt, carefree yet sharp good looks and even better lines.
The movie goes back and forth in time to put together the story by way of conversations amongst its characters, the best dialogs delivered between Chandan & Elena and Chandan & Gulshan (Mayank). The highlight of the film is the way Mayank's character Gulshan manipulates Chandan into aspiring to become like him. 'You may or may not get a woman if you Fu** her, but you will definitely get her if you 'Mind-Fu** her', so tells Gulshan to the already disturbed Chandan, a lesson that he does none too well to follow leading to a turbulent romance with Elena and its catastrophic consequence for them. Also interesting are couple of sequences where Gulshan playfully 'Mind-Fu**s' Shubhangi (Sonia Bindra) into falling for him.
The music and background score by Atif Afzal capture the essence of the movie, the highlight being the romantic Czech number 'Kap-Kap' pictured on Elena. 'Din Kabhi' captures the Rockstaresque character of Gulshan as he pours himself into the song on-screen. The second half of the film rides on the awesome background score to take the viewer into the underbelly of Chandan's mind as it is overwhelmed by the artistic mysticism of Prague. The cinematography is good and the opening scene of the film where Gulshan walks into the sea sets the tone for the film which later captures the delightful artistic mysteries of the city Prague. The way the camera plays with angles to bring about different shades and aspects of the characters and their nuances and also the city are the highlights of the film.
Prague though could have been better. The story a little more taut if it had done justice to the psychological aspects of the thriller, probably with a little more research of the subject. The direction could have been better in the first half which is a tad boring for a psychological thriller even though it rightly goes about setting the tone for the second half. Mayank's character Gulshan deserves more space in the film. He is cool with a carefree attitude bordering on 'I-give-a-Fu**', the f-word repeated one too many times through the movie. Gulshan is the reason around whom the lead's obsessions revolve and the scenes involving Mayank (Gulshan) are the most interesting as you will find out when you watch the film. If Mayank becomes a little more comfortable with the camera and the spotlight on him, we have a star in the making. Considering the film is called 'Prague', more aspects of the city could have been been played with in the story to do justice to the title, or, the film could have been titled differently.
All said and done, Prague is not your masterpiece, it has its flaws, perhaps many, but it is an honest and sincere film that one must watch. The genre does not get its due in India. Paraphrasing Sigmund Freud, whose school of Psychoanalysis the movie borrows richly from, 'We are all mad, the only difference between the truly mad and the normal is that the truly mad are mad all at once while the normal ones are crazy little by little everyday'. Watch Prague to see the madness that inhabits all of us as it takes gigantic proportions on screen and immerses you in its layers.