Thursday, January 29, 2004


For some reason, post-Satya, almost every filmmaker who wants to make a mark in mainstream cinema feels obliged to make at least one gangster film.

The genre offers an opportunity to be ‘with it’, deal with violence in a stylized manner and explore various areas of darkness – almost as if willfully challenging the feel good mantra of a large section of popular cinema.

After a small children’s film Makdee, music composer-turned-filmmaker Vishan Bharadwaj gets a larger canvas in Maqbool, which is Macbeth set in the Mumbai underworld (a la American movie Men of Respect). Though, if you knew your Hollywood better than your Shakespeare, you’d think the director was simply inspired by Godfather.

Maqbool (Irrfan Khan), is the trusted lieutenant of Abbaji (Pankaj Kapoor) a Mumbai don. Abbaji’s mistress Nimmi (Tabu) lusts after Maqbool and engineers the murder of Abbaji. Maqbool gets the power and the woman he loves, but also a heavy load of guilt and the responsibility of dealing with the ensuing chaos.

Though there is a love story involving Abbaji’s daughter and a gangster’s son, the film focuses on the violence and ugliness of the underworld, with two cops (Om Puri and Naseeruddin Shah) acting as catalysts and commentators.

Though the film works only in fits and starts, Bharadwaj displays enough directorial vision and technical control, for one to be able to tell that he is a filmmaker with the talent to work wonders with better material. In fact this ‘chor-police’ laddish stuff is best left to filmmakers devoid of imagination. Even to this overworked genre, the director has given a touch of poetry and a Muslim ‘nawabi’ grace in parts.

Bharadwaj is blessed with some of the best actors in the business and it is a pleasure to see this group in action. Pankaj Kapoor, plays Abbaji with a benevolent air and a selection of mannerisms that makes him almost likeable. With Tabu and Irrfan playing the brooding guilty lovers, the film sparks to life when Om Puri and Naseeruddin Shah appear on screen.

One has higher hopes from Vishal Bharadwaj now that he has proved his credentials.


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