Sunday, February 10, 2008



So many films have been made about look-alikes, that you wonder what more can be done with the plot. Rajat Kapoor’s Mithya a very watchable tragic-comedy, pays tribute to films like Kagemusha and Face/Off, with a gently spoofy quality. Which is what gives some novelty and unpredictability to an otherwise done-to-death subject.

VK (Ranvir Shorey) is a struggling actor, who can quote from Hamlet with aplomb and is proud of his theatre training, just cannot get his toe into the industry door. Unknown to him, there is his duplicate, a gangster Raje, who is caught in some complicated inter-gang rivalry.

Plotting against him are two gangsters Gawde (Naseeruddin Shah) and Shetty (Saurabh Shukla). When they discover the duplicate, they hatch a plot to kill Raje and have VK infiltrate his gang.

The innocent VK is taken to a remote place to be ‘trained’ -- his last idyllic days, goofing around with Gawde’s henchmen Ram and Shyam (Vinay Pathak-Brijendra Kala) and falling in love with his moll Sonam (Neha Dhupia).

When VK is finally sent into Raje’s household, with it’s almost normal family air – wife Revati (Iravati Harshe), two perky kids, mother, hot-headed brother (Harsh Chhaya) and loyal men-- despite his fears of discovery, he seems to fit in there.

Then there’s an unexpected twist in the plot, that subtly shifts the tone from light and playful to sombre and wistful. As all the violence explodes around, there are two love stories taking place—between the fake Raje and Revati and VK-Sonam.

Kapoor has done well to cast Ranvir Shorey in the part—an actor who is just about reaching stardom, through his choice of unconventional roles, growing gradually, till his talent explodes in the face of the audience with Mithya. Despite it’s superb ensemble cast, the film leans heavily on Shorey’s lean shoulders and he never once puts the burden down. Fine performances come from actors in smaller roles, like Brijendra Kala, Tinnu Anand as a film producer almost steals the couple of scenes he appears in; Iravati Harshe who accepts the change in her husband with puzzlement, making her later disillusionment all the more poignant.

Kapoor’s earlier films Raghu Romeo and Mixed Doubles had a slight ‘look-I’m-so-clever’ feel, Mithya is as whimsical as it is self-assured. The director has finally arrived at a point where bigger and better things can be expected from him.

Super Star

It’s one of those co-incidences that Rohit Jugraj’s Super Star, the other release of the week, has the same plot idea as Mithya— in this one too a dead man’s look-alike takes his place, but that’s where the similarity ends.

While Mithya is a complex, layered look at the question of identity, Jugraj’s film is a straightforward and slow-paced, looking like it stretched an incomplete or underwritten screenplay to full length.

Kunal (Khemu) is a junior artiste who wants to be a star (when was the last time an extra in films became a star in real life?), while his parents worry about his future. Then one day, his look-alike is splattered all over the media as the next superstar, and Kunal’s hopes are dashed.

But Karan, the pampered, barely sober son of a rich producer Saxena (Darshan Jariwala) is not interested in acting; since there are crores riding on him, Saxena hires Kunal as a stand-in. But Karan dies in an accident, and Kunal is forced to keep playing Karan, so that the film can be completed.

This is not a serious introspective film, so Kunal hardly goes through any angst over the situation. There are a couple of sneering “investigative” journalists sniffing around for scoops, but when one of them gets to hear the truth, through a hidden tape-recorder, he chooses not to expose it. So no excitement or tension building up there.

The two romantic tracks with a budding reporter (Tulip Joshi) and a starlet (Aushima Sawhney) are also too weak to lift the tedium the film induces. For a story set in the movie industry, Jugraj doesn’t even get the film-within-film right.

An earnest Kunal Khemu is handed a poor script and the company of hams. He has an unpolished charm that worked in films like Kalyug and Traffic Signal, but he is not likely to get too many films that are willing to let him get away using just his muscular body and lop-sided grin.

Jugraj’s earlier film James had some bite, this one’s dead-on-arrival—better luck next time, dude!


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