Saturday, April 30, 2011

Shor in The City [Raj Nidimoru & Krishna DK]

The short answer is that if you are at all interested in non-run-of-the-mill Hindi movies that also aren't pompous this-is-ART statements, you definitely should check out this film. After their rollicking laugh-a-minute Bollywood debut 99, the director duo are back with another caper. While in 99 they poked a lot of goodhearted fun at the stereotypes of Delhi, the new film is wholly focused on the mores of Mumbai and it's a more ambitious venture – The narrative has multiple threads running in parallel, and unlike its predecessor's always light-edged laughs, Shor... has a darker, bleaker underbelly.

The most interesting story thread, and one they could have run an entire film on, is that of three small-time bumbler con-guys (An astonishingly good Tusssshar Kapoor, a solid if unremarkable Nikhil Dwivedi and the totally livewire Pitobash who rips Joe Pesci's act a whole new one). These crooks run the gamut, from printing pirated copies of bestsellers to flicking luggage off local trains, chilling off at bars with their aspirations and their petty boasts. Their plot takes first a subtle turn with Tusssshar's newly-married status, then a major swerve when Pitobash and Nikhil accidentally grab a bag of contrband arms.

The second strand is of a US-returned native (Sendhil Ramamurthy) putting his earnings into a business here, then faced against an extortion scheme. My mind started groaning at the NRI theme because these have in general been cliched or shitty affairs (Bombay Boys, anyone?) but this one is nicely handled. Sendhil's own background makes him a good fit for the character and a palpable sense of menace is exuded by the extortionists, headed by Zakir Hussain (he of Johnny Gaddaar fame). The last and least interesting theme is of an aspiring cricketer (Sundeep Kishan), desperate to be selected for the Indian team because his love life hangs upon his getting settled as a professional player. To give due credit this thread is also handled with sincerity, with spot-on natural acting and accurate depiction of the milieu, but the endangered romance is not as interesting in comparison and deserved less screen time.

You probably won't be busting your gut as much as you did with 99 (and if you didn't there, you're a grouch and a snob), but there is a good deal to be amused at, especially in the con-men thread. The lead characters have more personality and their overall trajectory is significantly bleaker. And this is one of my main grouses with the film, that the makers didn't have enough courage to sustain the bleakness. They use the “have your cake and eat it too” approach of showing you a dark emotional moment and subsequently diluting it for the comfort of easy laughs and Hallmark card sentiments. I can't get into too many details without spoiling the film for you but one example is when the con-men take out a bomb they found in the bag of smuggled arms with the intent of exploding it in an isolated area. In the midst of their tomfoolery the bomb goes off near a child, and that's a powerful moment...until the child rises again, like the bomb was just a slightly better endowed Deepavali firecracker. This is repeated on various occasions.

So ya, the pussyfooting spoils things some but this is still worth ticket money.

1 comment:

  1. sounds good. mean to watch this over the week sometime.