Himesh Reshammiya may have his share of admirers and adversaries within and outside the industry, but let's face it, the man continues to score big as a musician and his movies -- as an actor -- are talked-about, evaluated and scrutinised feverishly [good, bad, whatever!], which, indirectly, hints at his popularity. Like him or loathe him, the fact is you can't ignore him.
In his new endeavour THE XPOSE, Himesh and director Ananth Narayan Mahadevan take you back in time. When Bollywood depended completely on the whims and fancies of its lead stars. When 70mm fantasies were all that mattered. When movies were the only source of entertainment for the common man. In the past, accomplished film-makers like Farah Khan [OM SHANTI OM] and Zoya Akhtar [LUCK BY CHANCE] embarked on an enchanting journey into this world. Now Ananth Narayan Mahadevan draws parallels with real life, integrates a murder mystery in the plot, garnishes it with a lilting soundtrack and recreates the bygone era in THE XPOSE.
Let's enlighten you about the premise. THE XPOSE is an ode to the glam world called Bollywood. Set in the 60s, the film starts off with the sudden demise of a rising star. She has been murdered, actually. The finger of suspicion points towards several people who were associated with her. Who could've committed the ghastly act?
Flashback. The seeds of hatred were sown during the making of two ambitious films that were filmed concurrently ['Ujwal Nirmal Sheetal' and 'Reena Mera Naam'], which, incidentally, were released on the same day and starred rival stars. The latter becomes a runaway hit, while the former faces its waterloo at the ticket window. Worse, the lead actress of 'Ujwal Nirmal Sheetal' walks away with the coveted award and during the party that ensues, she gets murdered...
Ananth Narayan Mahadevan juxtaposes fantasy and reality and depicts the life on and off film sets. Being an integral part of the industry, Ananth makes sure he includes episodes that would make the spectator draw parallels with real life, neatly presenting the grime and sleaze behind the glam and insecurities behind smiling faces.
Showbiz is a cruel place where fortunes and equations change every Friday, depending on how your film fares at the ticket window and Ananth captures this aspect rather well. He also makes sure he encompasses the casting process, the whims and fancies of stars, the scandalous streak in actresses, the manipulative games people play and of course, the cut-throat competition when two biggies clash on the same date.
Having said that, the film suffers due to a sketchy script intermittently. The relationship between Himesh and Adil Hussain appears far from convincing. The romance between Himesh and Zoya Afroz could've been more persuasive. Additionally, looking at the stardom and popularity of Yo Yo Honey Singh, his role could've been more substantial, more so because he has been given equal prominence in the posters of the film. Ditto for Irrfan, who is a mere sutradhaar, the narrator of this tale.
With Himesh and Yo Yo Honey Singh featuring in a project together, the soundtrack ought to scale dizzy heights and the music of THE XPOSE has chartbuster written all over it. The three tracks that stand out -- the songs could also give an impetus to the business of the film -- include 'Dard Dilon Ke Kam Ho Jaate', 'Hai Apna Dil To Awara' and of course, 'Ice Cream Khaungi Kashmir Jaungi'. The film bears an upscale, glossy look and the DoP [Maneesh Chandra Bhatt] captures the bygone era exceedingly well on celluloid. Dialogue [Bunty Rathore] are aimed at the masses and though a couple of lines may seem ludicrous in the promos, they seem to fit well when viewed in context. The background score is top notch.
Himesh appears slim and trim [he has lost weight for the part] and carries the character with conviction. Also, the attitude that he flaunts goes well with his on-screen character. Yo Yo Honey Singh has the trappings of a fine actor, but is relegated to the back seat. Irrfan Khan appears in a cameo. The two leading ladies, Zoya Afroz [as Chandni] and Sonali Raut [as Zara], look glamorous and enact their parts with confidence.
Nakul Vaid does a fine job. Ananth Narayan Mahadevan is effective. Ashwin Dhir [as Bobby Chadha] is first-rate. Adil Hussain is wasted. Rajesh Sharma is, as always, efficient. Jessy Randhawa, Bharat Dabholkar, Dayashankar Pandey, Naresh Suri, Kanika Dang and Kunal Thakkur are perfect.
On the whole, THE XPOSE is a decently-crafted vintage musical-thriller that keeps you guessing about the identity of the murderer all through. An entertaining outing for fans of atypical Bollywood-style murder mysteries.