Sunday, July 12, 2009

Short Kut+Sankat City 

Short Kut - The Con Is On

If Neeraj Vora’s Short Kut - The Con Is On looks like a poor copy of Priyadarshan’s films, it’s probably because it is taken from the Malayalam Udayananu Tharam.

There is a menagerie of ‘chawl-walas’ and an actor who could have been Paresh Rawal if he had dates to spare as the landlord (Siddharth Randeria in Rawal’s Hera Pheri get-up). The original was a hit, but Short Kut - The Con stops just short of unbearable, which goes to show that all copies don't work.

Produced by Anil Kapoor—who should have known better— starring Akshaye Khanna, who is reported to be very ‘choosy’ this film is a ‘kon’ in every department--starting with Anees Bazmee taking credit for the script.

Shekhar (Akshaye Khanna) is an assistant director (to Neeraj Vora, if you please—such vanity!) who wants to make his own film. He lives in a chawl in which every resident is some kind of freak—maybe that was Vora’s idea of humour. A flop actor buddy of his, Raju (Arshad Warsi) comes as an unwelcome guest, and steals Shekhar’s ‘superhit’ script.

He becomes a star overnight, while Shekhar, unable to recover from the betrayal, goes rapidly downhill. To make things worse, his actress girlfriend Mansi (Amrita Rao) runs away from home and insists on marrying him, and Shekhar is can’t bear taunts about living off his wife.

Film people making films about the industry usually get it so wrong. Are films made the way as shown in the film? There seems to be just one white-clad director around—if you don’t count Abbas-Mustan doing an embarrassed cameo to say “cut.”

You expect that a man as wounded as Shekhar would want to take revenge, but when he is forced to make a film (produced by the demented chawl gang!) with the now arrogant Raju, he meekly agrees and puts up with his misbehaviour. You wait for the worm to turn, and that doesn’t happen, even after a Bowfinger-inspired climax.

The drama is non-existent, in the name of comedy, everybody wears weird costumes and shouts. Akshaye Khanna in an unflattering wig, mostly wears one peevish expression, Arshad Warsi hams away; Amrita Rao is in her much-publicised ‘sexy’ makeover, which means she wears very skimpy clothing and acts as badly as she does anyway, squeaky voice and all. A song from the film says it all – Patli gali se nikal bhi ja.

Sankat City

A bunch of people playing passing the parcel with bags of cash, suitcases getting exchanged, landing up in a garbage dump and so on… doesn’t seem like something that could happen only in Mumbai.

Just because there is a crazy gangster in the long list of unsavory characters, you are expected to believe this is Sankat City. This sort of caper has been done often enough to count a tiresome (most recently 99), to give director Pankaj Advani credit, he does lend it a kind of spoofy quality, but spoils the effect by many obvious gags like the lost twins with matching lockets, amnesia and co-incidences galore. If it’s Mumbai, there has to be a film producer, his South Indian assistant, a builder, a chatty cabbie and an anorexic bar dancer doing an item number.

Almost all the actors have put-on accents (South Indian, Punjabi, Marathi, Pahadi and so on) and a loud acting style that announces, “Look at meeee, I’m so funeeee.”

Guru (Kay Kay Menon) is a car thief whose troubles start when he steals a Merc with a bag of cash in the boot. The driver who was to deliver it had gone off to meet his girlfriend, leaving the key in the ignition. Guru’s partner Ganpat (Dilip Prabhawalkar) hides the money and then loses his memory, so Guru has to find another way to return the cash that belongs to a gangster Faujdar (Anupam Kher).

A builder (Yashpal Sharma) who owes money to Faujdar and a producer (Manoj Pahwa), who borrows get caught in the merry-go-round too. Guru teams up with a conwoman (Rimmi Sen) to steal from the builder, and lose the money when the bag gets switched in a bus. They manage to trace it to a garbage tip only to see it crushed by a dumper.

It’s a small world there, where everything connects to the gangster, the same cabbie turns up whenever a taxi is needed, and just one supari killer is conveniently at hand whenever a job is to be done.

This sort of thing is hard to pull off over a full-length feature, when you don’t get the audience to really care for any of the characters and the humour sometimes falls into into gross category – like the Don’s guru’s in a bath tub being scrubbed by acolytes, or the builder’s towel dropping.

It is to Advani’s credit that he mostly keeps things going at a brisk pace and has a few really funny lines punctuating the woozy plot. Of this week’s lot of soggy releases, this one’s most spirited… but that is not saying much. Compared to Short Kut, anything is a masterpiece.


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