For a film that has an ending you can guess even from the synopsis or the storyline, it's amazing how Anurag Kashyap keeps it all well concealed. If you thought a good film cannot be made with a bad script, Kashyap proves you wrong in his best directorial effort yet.
Every guy in big bad Mumbai the 20-year-old girl turns to for help is a creep and wants sexual favours or money. Kashyap's heroine services the seedy underbelly of the ugly city by doing sexual favours to repressed men frequenting the parlour out of her own choice to make a quick buck but does not put out completely. She does not go all the way because apparently that would make it a movie cliché and is less disturbing than offering them her “handshakes”.
So, like most Yash Raj heroines, the girl is virginal, even when her profession demands the danger of it being threatened. So she has not even slept with her boyfriend because she can only think of finding her father. She would do anything to find her father and yet, when the situation arrives that she has to cater to a group of rich diamond merchants, the director checks that need with a convenient solution of her boyfriend showing up.
The bane of this film is that its idea of sex does not involve the act itself. Since the girl hasn't crossed the line of virginity, the ending is way less shocking or disturbing than the script demands. Kashyap shows ambitions of being Gasper Noe but ends up being more conservative than even Robert Zemeckis. Even family-friendly Back to the Future showed more inappropriate behaviour than what's in this supposedly bold adult film.
The impact is also diluted because of the way the rituals are shown in the film. We see shots of her chucking tissues, washing her hands, routinely repeating it every day. While this “handshake” business may be shocking to the aunt next door, to people who are used to world cinema, this is literally a watered down version.
Yet, the film keeps you intrigued because of the way Kashyap has shot this material. His shot-taking (cinematography by Rajeev Ravi) and blocking will serve as a master-class for independent filmmakers with budgetary limitations.
The extremely natural, seemingly improvised quips of Gulshan Devaiya and Puja Swarup go a long way in providing the lighter moments the film needed to balance its one-note brooding mood. Kalki's histrionic limitations are exposed when she has to share frames with Gulshan or Puja. Kalki is fantastic when she has to let her eyes do the talking (again, an example of director making up for the script without a single memorable line) and when she doesn't need to get dramatic. It's the screechy, high-pitched outbursts that she can't seem to get right. They are always a notch above what the camera can handle, a performance that would've been more appreciated on the stage. Prashant Prakash is a victim of this stage-to-film transition too but shows great promise with his body language and timing.
How do you make a predictable plot less guessable? Throw in red herrings. That's exactly what Kashyap does. It is gimmicky, of course, but without these misdirections, this is a film with an ending you would've guessed within the first five minutes.
In his efforts to divert and distract, he also gets the casting of the father wrong and the otherwise intense climax suffers hugely from this. The score by Naren Chandavarkar and Benedict Taylor is just what the film needed to get its mood right, especially towards the final frames.
Overall, this is a film that, like That girl, sits on the wall. It may be virgin territory for India but done with far more intensity outside. And the Yellow Boots remain far from soiled.
That Girl In Yellow Boots
Director: Anurag Kashyap
Cast: Kalki Koechlin, Prashant Prakash, Gulshan Devaiya, Naseeruddin Shah
Storyline: A girl comes to India in search of her father and works in a massage parlour servicing the seedy underbelly of Mumbai
Bottomline: A predictable yet bold effort but not as brave as it pretends to be
Keywords: That Girl In Yellow Boots