There's a plethora of film releases week after week. To stand tall in the midst of it all is indeed a herculean task. 2013 has thrown a lot of surprises at the BO. While well-made masala entertainers still rule the roost, attracting the entertainment-seeking audience in hordes, the spectator has also warmly embraced several films that resist the temptation of taking the tried and tested route. JOHN DAY, directed by first-timer Ahishor Solomon, is yet another commendable attempt that should find a place in this illustrious list.
In retrospect, JOHN DAY first caught my attention courtesy the two actors who adorn the billboards [Naseeruddin Shah and Randeep Hooda]. The names are synonymous with qualitative films. They are known to green-light a project only if the script is entrancing enough. Fortunately, the viewer endorses their choice as the reels of JOHN DAY unfold. The cat and mouse game, the edge of the seat thrill, the exhilarating performances, the stunning finale... the film charters an individualistic route, yet remains firmly entrenched within the domain of mainstream cinema.
John Day [Naseeruddin Shah], a banker by profession, is shattered after the demise of his daughter. Post a heist at the bank in which he works as the manager, John stumbles upon documents that uncover a bitter truth. These documents are vital for Gautam [Randeep Hooda], a cop, who works for the mafia. The two men set off on a deadly mission...
The first thing that catches your eye is the manner in which the drama unfurls. The two plotlines -- involving Naseer and Randeep -- are kept separate right till the penultimate act, although they do cross each other's path several times in the narrative. The anxiety builds up magnificently -- the showdown between the two is imminent -- which leads to a blood-soaked, volatile finale. The relentless pacing [for most parts] only adds sheen to a plot that never tilts towards the standard format.
Ahishor Solomon creates a web of mystery, executing a number of sequences with flourish. The thin line that prompts a mild person [Naseer] to turn into an avenger is deftly illustrated by the first-time director. Conversely, the wicked and deceitful cop [Randeep], who loves to inflict pain on others, finds himself at crossroads when it comes to matters of the heart [Elena Kazan]. Although the screenplay does get into the predictable zone at times, I must credit the director and writer for maintaining intrigue, teasing the viewer with unpredictable twists. As a matter of fact, a number of moments stay with you much after the screening has concluded and that speaks of the director and writer's competency.
JOHN DAY is dark, sinister and edgy. You need to have a strong stomach to absorb the aggression and ghastly sequences that unfurl on screen. Also, the usage of expletives is another characteristic that might make you slightly uncomfortable, although it gels well with Randeep's character and the temper of the motion picture. Furthermore, the tempo, though swift-paced at most times, does tend to get sluggish intermittently. But these are minor quibbles...
There's no scope for music in the film, but the background score [Sandeep Chowta] garnishes this well-executed movie brilliantly. As a matter of fact, the background score augments the impact of several sequences, that effective it is. Dialogue are acidic and power-packed, in sync with the temperament of the film. The DoP captures the tones, especially the night shots, perfectly.
JOHN DAY is a forceful and intense film and the director gets it right by casting two intense actors, who add a lot of weight to the goings-on. Known for dramatics mainly, Naseer has seldom stepped into the action zone, at least in his recent outings. The veteran is authoritative as the hapless father who transforms into a brute to settle scores with the wrong-doers. Randeep stands up to an accomplished actor like Naseer and that's a tall statement indeed. You rarely witness such wicked acts and that's quite a compliment. The actor inculcates verve and dynamism into the depraved character. It's a class act!
The supporting cast packs a solid punch as well. Elena Kazan is efficient and has remarkable screen presence. Sharat Saxena is top notch, portraying his part with gusto. Vipin Sharma is incredible as Randeep's colleague. He's sure to catch your attention yet again. Shernaz Patel registers an impact. Makrand Deshpande, Ananth Mahadevan and Bharat Dabholkar are watchable in cameos.
On the whole, JOHN DAY is a razor-sharp thriller with an engaging screenplay, high-voltage drama and sterling performances as its aces. A film like JOHN DAY is a leap in the right direction. It reinforces your faith and trust in qualitative films and deserves to be supported. Strongly recommended!