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Dark Mumbai again in focus

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Changing track: Shahid Kapoor gets a much-needed image makeover in this film.
Changing track: Shahid Kapoor gets a much-needed image makeover in this film.

Kaminey (Hindi)

Cast: Shahid Kapoor, Priyanka Chopra

Director: Vishal Bhardwaj

Vishal Bhardwaj can’t blame his mentor. Gulzar gives a call, “Aa Dil Nichodey”, midway, but Vishal prefers to squeeze the intellect leaving little heart for his characters to develop a connection with the audience. He is using an offensive title for the first time, but Vishal has handled rascals really well before. Both “Maqbool” and “Langda Tyagi” managed to win either hearts or reverence. Here they shoot from the hip, from the gun and what not. The lines drip with black humour.

In this bloody battle of the bizarre, Vishal has opted for a cinematic style where technique overwhelms screenplay. It is not the emotional journey that Bollywood expects us to take week after week. You will take time to get used to the tone and tenor of the dark underbelly of Mumbai. It is Vishal’s experiment with the new-age noir, which has little space for saccharine.

He and his team have given it all — sharp editing patterns, gritty camera work, making rain an insidious character — but somewhere down the line you begin to feel Vishal’s intentions have a lisp, very much like Charlie, one of his twin protagonists, the other being Guddu (played by Shahid Kapoor). While Charlie pronounces Spiderman as Fiderman, Vishal seems to have Hollywood in mind when he says Bollywood.

At the core, it is staple Bollywood masala, but before it stutters like Guddu, Vishal makes it fly. The heavy weather keeps the mood dark, the characters break into Marathi, Bengali and even an African dialect; the speech impairment remains a prop for the large part.

He has cleverly reworked the good old tale of twins. Unlike popular Bollywood clones, they hate the sight of each other. Charlie is a compulsive gambler who wants to take the shortest possible route to the moolah. Guddu is a mousy NGO fellow who has an honest plan for life ready till 2014.

When Charlie finds drugs worth crores in a guitar, he gets the whiff of a life-changing shortcut. Meanwhile, Guddu finds his sweetheart, Sweety (played by Priyanka Chopra), is pregnant. He can live with it but not the fact that she is the sister of a gang lord-politician Bhope (Amol Gupte).

The police are after Charlie but find Guddu. Bhope and his men want Guddu but they reach Charlie. A frantic chase follows as the brothers come across a whole range of rascals. Ultimately their paths cross and the two have to combine to see the light of another day.

Shahid has finally got a chance to break free from his cute image, and he is up to the task. He is menacing as Charlie, but he has worked so much on his body that even the supposedly cute Guddu looks worked up. Priyanka is believable, but her manicured nails prick into the realism being sold.

Amol has made a smooth transition from behind the camera. Chandan Roy Sanyal is lethal as Mikhail and one wants to see more of him when Vishal suddenly shuts him up.

Similarly, Shiv Subrahmanyam is suitably flexible as the corrupt Lobo.

An awesome experiment that might help Vishal fulfil his Hollywood ambitions, but somewhere one wishes Vishal had listened to his mentor’s verse.

A.K.

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