Saturday, May 19, 2007

1.40 & Raqeeb 

Ek Chalis Ki Last Local

A lot of our filmmakers are inspired enough by Quentin Tarantino to copy his films and his style. First-time director Sanjay Khanduri plays him an affectionate tribute by making a film that uses his idiom, but in a wholly Indianised way (no shots of suited-booted gangsters strutting and scowling in slow motion).

His Ek Chalis Ki Last Local is set in the suburbs of Mumbai that are dismissed as down-market. This is where the hoodlums and junkies hang out at grungy all-night bars. This is where the very ordinary protagonist with a very ‘non-hero’ name of Nilesh (Abhay Deol— very likeable) is forced to hang out. He misses the last train home and it seems to be one of those days when everything goes wrong—the wheels of the train whisk away his jacket, the bench he sits on has chewing gum stuck on the armrest, a cop throws him out of the station, the autos are on strike, he has very little money left, it is raining outside—it can’t get worse.

A girl, called Madhu (Neha Dhupia—passable) caught in a similar predicament latches on to him, and the wind up at a seedy bar to kill time till the trains start again in the morning. Between one thing and another, Nilesh is drawn into a high stakes card game by his buddy (Amit Mistry—superb), is accused of murder, is set up for death himself and ends up in the boudoir of a gay don (Deepak Shirke).

The story unfolds almost in real time, and the following couple of hours are stuff of dream and nightmare combined for Nilesh, and he has a wry stream of consciousness voiceover going on which is made funnier by the fact that nothing goes as he expects it to.

The audience can’t predict what’s going to happen either, and is carried along chuckling with this adventure that can happen only in Mumbai. Other subplots including a ransom collection, gang wars and cop shenanigans happen around the same time and all of them dovetail into a loony climax.

There are little in jokes built in too, like a cabbie who is a Nana Patekar duplicate and a cop who believes he is Rajnikant. The film has a huge cast of oddball characters and all of them perfectly cast—Ashok Samarth as a corrupt cop, a cackling girl gangster (Sunita Rajwar), a dwarf don (Vinay Apte) his one-eyed henchman (Kishore Kadam), a kind-hearted eunuch (Snehal Dabhi).

If there’s something wrong with this rollercoaster of a film, it’s a slightly lax second half and violence and crudity in large measure (the almost gay rape is dreadful!). What saves it, however, is its witty colloquial dialogue (Raghuveer Shekhavat) that complements that inventive screenplay (Khanduri), zany humour and the relentless good cheer, that somewhat dulls the casual (a guy gets his ear shot off!) violence.

Khanduri makes a confident debut with a film --at least he did not make safe run-of-the-mill movie.


Anurag Singh makes his debut with an old-fashioned thriller (plot lifted from 1979 TV film Murder by Natural Causes), which falls apart before it even gets off the ground, because the actors are all so awful—Rahul Khanna looks wan and bored, Sharman Joshi hams, Tanushree Dutta and Jimmy Shergill with their weird get-ups look like escapees from a TV horror show.

Contrived and ridiculous, Raqeeb tells the story of a workaholic Remo Matthew (Khanna), whose friend Sid (Joshi) keeps trying to get him dates. Remo falls for one of his blind dates Sophie (Dutta) and marries her—odd that Christian characters speak Hindustani and use words like raqeeb, when half the audience in the hall wouldn’t have known the meaning, if the title hadn’t provided the translation (rival in love).

Sophie’s old boyfriend, struggling actor Sunny (Jimmy Shergill) turns up panting, but she doesn’t want to give up Remo’s wealth, so she plans to get Sunny to kill her husband. Oldest trick in the film book, right from the times of Double Indemnity and The Postman Always Rings Twice to Body Heat.

This one adds on stuff, that gets cornier by the second-- dead people come alive, a guy who has just been impaled by a falling chandelier gets up as if he had slipped on a banana peel, and to top the house of horrors, an overweight, over made-up and overdressed Tanushree Dutta parades around like a femme fatale in horrendous costumes. Hard to believe that three guys fall for her.

After some time, you stop nit-picking and just wait to see how much worse the film can get—there is a kind of perverse enjoyment in watching silly films.


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