Friday, February 27, 2004

Ab Tak Chhappan 

Imagine Satya from the point of view of the trigger-happy cop. Imagine Ardh Satya twenty years later. Imagine a milder Training Day. Shimit Amin’s Ab Tak Chhappan, coming out of the Ram Gopal Varma ‘Factory’ has the RGV stamp all over it. The same dark feel, gritty look, rough dialogue, excessive violence and the same moral vacuity as Satya or Company.

Unlike the recent Gangaajal, which at least examined the two sides of the issue – police brutality versus proliferating crime—Ab Tak Chhapan has no qualms in making a Hero out of a cop who thrives on killing criminals –never mind that innocent bystanders get shot as well.

Sadhu Agashe (Nana Patekar) is an ‘encounter specialist’ cop, who is the envy of his next in command (Yashpal Sharma) and a media celebrity. Though he says at some point that the necessity of killing criminals should not be equated with enjoyment in killing, there is no doubt that Sadhu enjoys the game. The very first ‘encounter’ has a cat-and-mouse game thrill to it—picking up a terrified gangster, assuring him his survival, eating, discussing women and then a sudden shot in the head. That is not an encounter that is cold-blooded killing, with Sadhu stoically justifies as “obeying orders.”

The film makes fun if the “human rights people” who protest such random killings, even alleging that they are in the pay of gangsters. This is dangerous message to push across—that it is all right to put the law aside and let cops kill whoever they please.

There is a rookie cop (Nakul Vaid) in Sadhu’s team, which gives the senior a chance to pepper the dialogues with pithy one-liners. (“We kill criminals or we kill time.”)

Sadhu has an odd phone friendship going with gangster Zameer (Prasad Purandare) who lives luxuriously abroad – note the name of the don, ‘Zameer’ which means conscience, leaves no doubt about whose side the filmmaker is on!

The jovial, flirtatious, cool Zameer is the one whom Sadhu turns to when he is in trouble. The murder of Sadhu’s wife (Revathi) and the revenge spree he goes on, ends with his slimy superior (Jeeva) ordering his own team to kill him in an ‘encounter’. Zameer pulls Sadhu out of India, and the film goes on the most far-fetched pre-climax and a perfect letdown of an ending.

There are no shortcomings in Amin’s filmmaking skills—meticulously designed, fabulously shot, with a fine background score (mercifully no ‘item’ numbers) and brisk pacing-- but the film still does not make for interesting viewing. And the wishy-washy, or rather non-existent stand (on crime or on the issue of encounter killings) is quite deplorable.

Nana Patekar dominates the film in an amazingly low-pitched performance, which still has a too-studied feel to it, but is far superior to anything he has done in recent times. Yashpal Sharma, Nakul Vaid, Jeeva, Kunal Vijaykar and Prasad Purandare all do their roles well, considering they have so little to do.


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