Monday, October 01, 2007


Johnny Gaddaar

Sriram Raghavan's Johnny Gadaar is a film buff’s movie. The director sets up a ‘quiz’ of a film, in which the audience will have fun figuring out his influences – some are there to see – Parwana, Johnny Mera Naam—some ‘tributes’ they have to look for.

Made with the wit and visual flair of classic film noir, Johnny Gaddar appears too clever at times, and the pace flags (often fatal for a thriller), but the several twists in the plot keep the audience’s attention riveted.

It’s a amoral universe, where a gang of five guys, all into illegal businesses, get a quick-profit deal and decide to invest a large sum of money. One of them, Shiva (Daya Shetty) is to deliver their share to a cop called Kalyan (Govind Namdeo) in Bangalore. Vikram (Neil Nitin Mukesh), the young, fresh recruit, decides to double-cross his partners and run off with his girlfriend Mini (Rimmi Sen). She also happens to be the wife of one of them, Shardul (Zakir Hussain), so there’s some subterfuge involved there.

Vikram hatches an elaborate plot –inspired by the old Amitabh Bachchan film Parwana—but Shiva dies by accident, and then Vikram gets sucked into a game of more lies and deceit.

There are no good guys here, all you can hold on to about these characters are their quirks – the senior Shedhadri’s (Dharmendra) love for his dead wife, Prakash’s (Vinay Pathak’s) stormy relationship with his wife (Ashwini Kalsekar), and Shardul’s leching.

It’s a serious, intense film, by no means fun to watch, but still enjoyable in its own way. Unlike others films of the genre made in Mumbai, this one can’t be accused of having all style and no substance. There is a fair amount of intricate plotting, and bouts of discomfiting violence (Kalyan torturing Shiva’s girlfriend). Raghavan still ends up making you care for the sneaky Vikram – or Johnny G (the name he adopts for a hotel booking), because his well-laid plans go awry.

There is even a code of honour among crooks, when Shardul does not reveal a secret that could have exposed Vikram. What does not work is the Vikrma-Mini romance, which lacks that feel of all-consuming, self-destructive passion; in fact this film sorely needed a femme fatale and a hit song—the background score is excellent though.

Dharmendra is a misfit in this set-up, his style of acting and dialogue delivery belonging to another era. Zakir Hussain and Vinay Pathak are dependably good; Neil Nitin Mukesh has an attractive screen presence (a strong resemblance to Hrithik Roshan), but had to play Johnny with a butter-won’t-melt-in-mouth look, so it’s tough to gauge if he can act ‘normal.’ However, that fact that he chose this film for a debut, in which he has no ‘hero’ traits, proves that he has a sense of adventure to begin with.. talent can be honed later.

Dil Dosti Etc

A college campus in Delhi, two very different guys form a bond of friendship. Dil Dosti Etc could be seen as downmarket version of Dil Chahta Hai. But if anyone expects to understand the minds and aspirations of today’s youth, they won’t get many insights in Manish Tiwary’s debut film.

Perhaps hoping to catch the young male audience, the film pays an inordinate amount of attention to the sex life of one of the protagonists, rich guy Apurv’s (Imaad Shah), whose parents, predictably throw more money than feelings at him, so the dude sleeps around in search of the meaning of life.

The other dude Sanjay (Shreyas Talpade), is a kurta-wearing, middle-class Bihari who wants to win the college elections and believes in real love, so turns down the seduction attempts of the college hottie (Nikita Anand).

Though presumably set in the present, the film has a ’70s feel to it, and a curious disconnect from the world outside. Apruv could perhaps stand for the fun-seeking, idle rich guy today, if Tiwary’s view of the upper class hadn’t been so out-of sync with reality (that high- society party was incredibly tacky!) and Imaad not played him with such excessive insouciance, as to make the character look bloodless. Shreyas Talpade is the only one here who gives a heart-felt performance.

Tiwary also has a no-comments stance on Apurv’s sexual shenanigans, including his chasing an underage school girl (Ishitta Sharma) and spending nights with a stereotypical filmi whore (Smrita Mishra). His bet with Sanjay that involves bedding three women in a day, ends in tragedy. The women in a boys’ flick obviously end up as sex-objects, treated with cynical contempt. Certainly not a feel good, or feel-anything film.


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