Film-maker Sudhir Mishra makes a shift into commercial cinema with CALCUTTA MAIL. A critically acclaimed director whose hard-hitting middle-of-the-road sensibilities in IS RAAT KI SUBAH NAHIN won rave reviews. Needless to say, his latest endeavour is surrounded with expectations.
Expectations may generate curiosity, but they can also prove to be the downfall. A routine potboiler, this CALCUTTA MAIL has arrived, but with little to offer in terms of novelty or freshness, thereby giving its passengers a bumpy ride.
The film starts off with Anil Kapoor arriving in Kolkata in search of his son. He finds a chawl as a temporary residence and bumps into Rani Mukherji. Rani is a novelist in disguise staying with the chawl tenants to observe closely their mannerisms and behaviour. Anil has to share his room with Rani and she slowly gets attracted to him.
In the meanwhile, Anil's search leads him to Saurabh Shukla, who knows the whereabouts of Sayaji Shinde. Sayaji is a criminal from Patna who kills as and when he likes. He is believed to have fled with Anil's son and is hiding in Kolkata.
Days pass by, but Anil is unable to trace Sayaji. Then one day Saurabh betrays Anil and tells Sayaji everything about Anil and his purpose. Sayaji lays a trap. In the fight that ensues, Anil is stabbed [twice].
A recuperating Anil goes into flashback and narrates his past to Rani. The past brings along Manisha Koirala, who is on a run escaping from her father Satish Kaushik, a famous industrialist who wants her to marry Sayaji.
Anil saves her from the clutches of Sayaji amidst gunshots and a train accident. And subsequently cupid strikes. They marry and are happily settled with their son Yeshu. But not for long, as Manisha's father traces her. Things move from bad to worse as Manisha is killed and Yeshu is missing.
Cut to the present: Anil recovers, but the whereabouts of his son still eludes him. The rest of the story revolves around Anil's search for his son and also trace his wife's murderer.
The film, set against the backdrop of a three-storeyed chawl, brings to the fore the essence of Kolkata. Sudhir has given the story a very realistic feel, which is very much evident from the streets, bylanes and houses of the city, where the film is shot.
The director has handled certain scenes with aplomb. Anil's outburst when he realises Rani wants to propose, to revealing his purpose of arriving in Kolkata, as also the one where a man hangs his son from the balcony demanding money from his wife, can be highlighted.
Even the scenes where Rani and Anil are having silly arguments are well executed. But, unfortunately, such scenes are few and far between.
A remake of Telugu blockbuster CHOODALANI VUNDI, CALCUTTA MAIL is touted as an emotional thriller. But neither is the emotional quotient potent enough to give you goose bumps, nor is it an edge-of-the-seat thriller.
Even the climax, which has room for suspense, doesn't appeal when the real killer comes to the fore. Also, the film lacks continuity at certain places. Gangsters pop out from anywhere and everywhere.
Another factor that works against the film is its music. The songs act as speed-breakers since they are forced in the goings-on. In fact, the film would've had a better impact had it been a songless enterprise. Dialogues are passable. Ditto for the cinematography.
It's the performances that are the saving grace, as the big names don't disappoint. Rani is natural. Her light moments and chatter-box mannerisms provide a welcome relief. This performance will add value to her already-heavy resume.
Manisha Koirala impresses in the little footage she gets. Sayaji Shinde gets stereotyped in another negative role, which he executes with full justice. Satish Kaushik's transformation from doing light-hearted comedies to a negative role is a pleasant surprise. His performance is first-rate. Saurabh Shukla is competent.
But it is the ever-reliable Anil Kapoor who comes up with a powerful performance. His emotional outbursts, as a helpless father in search of his son, engage the viewer to a major extent.
On the whole, CALCUTTA MAIL disappoints. With no hype or hoopla surrounding the film, it will face an uphill task at the box-office.