It is impossible to not like Filmistaan, in spite of the fact that it never really takes off. This is the kind of film that frustrates because you know there was a greater film in there that just didn’t come out.
Great characters, lovely moments that pay tribute to mainstream Hindi cinema, a superb theme of film uniting even sworn enemies, an extremely likeable lead in Sharib Hashmi… And yet, Filmistaan feels like a plane on a runway that decided not to take off, just as it gathered speed, content instead with just taking you for a spin around the air-strip.
The film jumps straight to the point. There’s a struggler who channels his inner Sunny Deol instead of being himself (Sharib Hashmi is excellent as Sunny Arora) and takes up a job as an assistant director after rounds of rejection, only to be kidnapped himself instead of the foreign crew.
The rest of Filmistaan is too happy being a serious version of Life is Beautiful (or should we say Film is Beautiful) so that when it suddenly decides to jump genre and turn into The Great Escape, we feel cheated not because we don’t like action but because it spends its entire duration walking the line between the real and the filmy only to deceive.
How can you keep things realistic and filmy at the same time? It is a tightrope walk, the makers falter a little, and the narrative wobbles quite a bit in the second half. And soon, the makers decide that they had enough of realism, jump off the rope, and go all out filmy to justify the film’s title — almost like an afterthought — so that the ending feels botched up.
Is feel-good alone enough to sustain a film’s pace? As long as you are prepared for it and resigned to the fact that this little indie is low on ambition and is happy being a light-hearted spin on cinema uniting people across borders.
There’s one lovely moment after another, every few minutes, as the makers lovingly pay tribute to cinema – be it the Maine Pyaar Kiya dub or the staging of the ransom video — there’s so much to love. Also, this is the rare film with no heroine and only the beginning of a great friendship to keep it going.
If we have to evaluate Filmistaan purely on the basis of Sunny’s parameters of entertainment: “Budget kitna bhi chotta ho, film ka dil bada hona chahiye” (However small the budget, a film’s heart should be big) then sure, it beats the biggest of films hollow when it comes to heart.
Filmistaan is the Holiday you must take this week, in spite of its failings.
Director: Nitin Kakkar
Cast: Sharib Hashmi, Inaamul Haq, Kumud Mishra
Storyline: A struggling actor who is kidnapped and held hostage in a village in Pakistan wins hearts as an ambassador of Indian cinema
Bottomline: Small film with a huge heart (and unrealised potential) that deserves to be watched for some lovely moments