Let’s say Guy Ritchie came up with yet another narrative bustling with a motley crew of characters whose paths cross in their quest for MacGuffins (we know how Guy loves multiple MacGuffins).
What if the Coen Brothers then took over to add a few bizarre touches to this structure, made the odd-ball characters seem real, and gave a touch of philosophy to make this pulp fiction look like a commentary on human nature?
And then, let’s say Quentin Tarantino took that material, rubbed his hands in glee, and played around with the linearity of storytelling restricting his “answers first, questions later” approach strictly within individual sequences that play out chronologically, all building up to an end — which all these filmmakers love — That Bloody Mexican Standoff.
Now, imagine what happens when Vishal Bhardwaj exorcises their ghosts, shakes off those multiple personalities, and does to this material what he did to Shakespeare through his earlier films: Reinterpret the characters by rooting them firmly in a credible Indian milieu and make everything about that world come alive.
What you get is a movie where every single character, including the littlest of boys, turns out to be a dirty rotten scoundrel. A film where even the nicest ones stay grey.
“Kaminey” is populated by Jai Maharashtra fanatics; trigger-happy Bengalis, who run a booking agency; drug smugglers with international patronage; deadly corrupt cops; and, of course, Hindi cinema’s old favourites Ram aur Shyam reincarnates — Guddu ‘ani’ Charlie.
Here, both have speech disabilities that are not just introduced for comic relief, as we’ve seen in David Dhawan films. Their conditions actually reflect their personalities. The crooked one says one thing for another (Yef, he’ll end up faying ‘Fhe Fells Fea Fhells On a FeaFhore’), and the naïve one stutters not just in a matter of speaking, but also in thinking, as he clarifies.
So what’s new? They are not separated by destiny, they split because of their differences, and pay the price for the road not taken — the crooked one puts his money on the wrong horse and gets knocked over while the naïve one, picks the wrong girl and gets her knocked up.
Thanks to the bumpy rides, the heroes are on the run, and the film too runs wildly amok, never stopping to explain what’s going on, and fully confident that you will catch up with its pace. So don’t turn to your friend to check if you’ve missed anything because that’s exactly when you may miss something else.
Here’s a director who knows to manoeuvre his way around the blindest of dark alleys in breakneck speed, keeping your spirits up with a fantastic score that works as a throwback to those good old RD Burman thrillers.
Hats off to cinematographer Tassaduq Hussain. A huge chunk of the film is set in the most challenging of situations for filming — a dark, rainy night where even the weather plays kamina. There’s this beautiful scene when the rain eggs the crooked one to steal, moments after he wipes his fingerprints off the stolen police car.
Shahid Kapoor is a revelation as he carries this film, shouldering the twin responsibility and doing full justice to these roles without any help from Shah Rukh Khan imitations (quite something that nobody from the audience even thought of saying I love you, Kkkk?kkiran).
Priyanka Chopra, her Marathi coming in handy, rocks this role. And, man! In that intimate scene when she convinces her boyfriend to forget the rubber, she’s on fire — easily one of the most sensual scenes ever filmed as sexual tension fills the frame.
We can go on about every member of this ensemble, but Amole Gupte is so good that I’m scared we are going to see him in half a dozen roles playing gangster or politician. The next Mahesh Manjrekar.
Often reminding you of other multiplex efforts such as “Ek Chalis Ki Last Local”, “Waisa Bhi Hota Hai — Part 2” and even the recent “99”, “Kaminey” takes the post-postmodern noir genre to a whole new level, to a sophistication the Indian audience isn’t used to. Watch it at least twice to fully appreciate this masterpiece. Vishal Bhardwaj, you son of a gun, it’s a clean bloody shot. And I, for one, am dying to watch it again.
Director: Vishal Bhardwaj
Cast: Shahid Kapoor, Priyanka Chopra, Amole Gupte
Storyline: Twins find themselves in big trouble as their lives get entwined in a comedy of er... shootouts
Bottomline: Whoever thought neo-noir-masala would taste this bloody good?