After director Sudhir Mishra introduces the 15th character or so within the first 15 minutes of the film with the character name superimposed on screen, you are likely to roll your eyes and look around to see if there's anyone distributing photocopies of character profiles in the cinema hall. That's how desperate he is to make sure we don't forget any of them.
If it's not character names, it's locations spelt out through supers and inconsistent graphic illustrations that add to this crime comedy that tries hard, very hard, to explain its complexity and entertain the masses — be it the unnatural sounding profanity in English or the non-stop voiceover rambling all along the narrative as a running commentary of thoughts from the protagonist's messed up head. If there's not enough information overload already, there are songs scattered all around the score to add to the chaos and an overdose of a heavily made-up Chitrangada, looking uncomfortable with a guitar.
It's as wannabe as it gets, something you would expect from a lesser filmmaker who has finally caught up with a long overdue marathon of Guy Ritchie films on DVD (or Vishal Bhardwaj's Kaminey ) and said: “Hey, cool! Even I want to make a multiple narrative film with quirky characters spouting profanity and do cool stuff with guns and gangsters.”
But, this is Sudhir Mishra we are talking about. So we at least get a few moments of paisa vasool and genuinely bizarre flashes of brilliance, thanks to the ensemble led by Irrfan Khan. Khan is in such sparkling form with the lines that he turns cheese into charm in no time, especially when he has to speak Hindi.
A lot of credit in keeping this multiple narrative going should go to the tight editing as the filmmaker flits in from one track to the other and swiftly and simultaneously brings the entire motley crew closer and closer, from different parts of the world, for a convenient quick fix resolution. Never mind that the storytelling all happens a little too literally — through voiceover.
The flip side of dealing with so many characters is that the writing is sketchy and compromised. For instance, when kidnappers make the hostage call his fiancé who repeatedly cuts his call, it strangely never occurs to anyone in the gang or the boy who wants his life saved, that there's this new technology around called the SMS — short messaging service — that lets you send texts!
Arunodhay's awkwardness is compensated by his sizzling chemistry with Aditi Rao Hydari (the two lock lips for over half the time they share together on screen), while talented Prashanth Narayanan (who plays a fashion-savvy gangster who is stationed somewhere in Russia for most part of the film) and Sushanth Singh (the mandatory crooked double-crossing cop in films of this genre) are under-utilised in Mishra's attempt at pulp fiction.
Despite all that goes wrong — don't miss the mother of all bullet-trajectory scenes reserved for the end — there's plenty to keep those starved for entertainment intrigued. And as the romantic last scene turns into an irreverent outtake over black suggested by giggles by the cast that erupt over the filmmaker's name, you smile, knowing at least someone on the other side of the screen really enjoyed the film.
Yeh Saali Zindagi
Director: Sudhir Mishra
Cast: Irrfan Khan, Chitrangada Singh, Arunodhay Singh, Saurabh Shukla, Sushanth
Storyline: An accountant hopelessly in love with a singer must come up with a plan to save her kidnapped boyfriend to bail her out of trouble right from the epicentre of a brewing gang war
Bottomline: Excuse the Wannabe Guy Ritchie Syndrome and you have a half-decent derived dark comedy, but still better than half the original films made