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Last Updated 19.10.2019 | 10:36 AM IST



Subhash K. Jha speaks about Kaminey

It’s a crazy immoral world out there. Two cops masquerading as Mafioso-or is it the other way around?-are on the run after one of them is accidently run down by the other. A third gangster who looks like a cross between Mogambo and Haji Mastan tells the brother of the injured cop to get another gangster on the phone (yes, another one!) or shoot himself in his head. The distraught cop shoots his injured brother instead. ”Sir Ab ek aur chance milega na?” whines the cop.

That’s Vishal Bhardwaj’s world for you. Irrational options, desperate choices… a world populated by crazy cops and vicious dons who are sometimes the one and the same. Ruthless, mean, evil, scheming, brutal and, yes, funny… welcome to the Bhardwaj territory where Shakespeare rubs shoulders with Quentin Tarantino. And then they both join Ram Gopal Varma for a cup off coffee at an ominously – lit sweltering café near them.

Kaminey is not an easy world to inhabit, let alone accept. The characters are so malfunctional bitter and malevolent that their emotional connectivity with the audience is nil. The doppelganger effect of twins in conflict is frequently corroded by the compromised quality of the lives led by the two heroes, one a stammerer the other a lisper. In the both the speech impairment is symptom of a much more serious moral and emotional disturbance.

Stress is the crux. The characters are not really heartless. They just couldn’t care less beyond the dingy dreadful world of paisa – pimps that they inhabit. Even when they participate in a normal event like a wedding they end behaving more like weirdo’s than baraatis.

Somewhere the quotient of dramatic conflict gets overpowered by the director’s arrogant narrative. Vishal Bhardwaj knows the power of pain. He audaciously crosses its threshold with his characters and expects the audience to be right behind him. The exercize gets a bit complicated for the audience as the criss – cross of characters gets progressively hard to define.

Eventually it’s hard to tell who’s the wronged and who’s right. Yes, the unaffected Sweety (Priyanka Chopra) needn’t search for Mr. Right. She’s found him in Guddu before we the audience join the characters in this binge of brutality. Softspoken gentle stammering Guddu is often joined in his stammer by his empathetic girl. It’s like the audience. We are expected to accompany the character’s fragmented moral concerns quite in the same way that Sweety connects with Guddu. When we first see him, Guddu is selling condoms. He forgot to wear one with his girlfriend and she’s now expecting.

Ditto the audience. Though our expectations are ceaselessly challenged and mocked by characters that live life on the brink, doddering like drunkards on the precipice mocking the inevitable fall.The sequence between Bhope (Amol Gupte) and Charlie’s best friend (newcomer Chandan Roy, sufficiently wild) careens dangerously between mock-terror and comedy and finally settles for a tone of tragic irony. The gruesome is often an alibi for the glorious. The bold transition is not quite negotiated.

These brutalized characters are as brutal as they are unlikeable. At the most we can only feel sorry for them.

Trains run through this vivacious violent and vicious look at blood kinship and bloodied gang wars. The locomotive has seldom seemed so débuted of romance. This homage to Quentin Tarantino’s homage to gangsterism is not meant for mass consumption. Lusciously specific in their appeal, the characters indulge in their ‘niche’ harkatein with an intense insouciance that mimics the Sicilian mafia without its élan or sophistication.

The people in Kaminey kill for money and pleasure. Sometimes for honour, though its definition is nebulous. Often enough killing for money is a matter of pleasure for all these sociopaths, some of them dressed in khaki. But that’s another story. Suffice it to say the gangsters in action rev-up the plot without truly identifying themselves as anything more than emblems of contemporary diabolism.

There are even a couple of Black Westerners and Far-Eastern psychos thrown into the Mumbai underbelly for good measure.

You really can’t keep track of the melee of meanies. Charlie the lisper and Guddu the stammerer run through the narrative, sometimes literally, at other times in metaphorical manoeuvrings that move into areas of starkness that leave the narrative breathless and us the audience panting behind in search of a world where innocence is at an acute premium.

What happened to all those love stories about couples who were chased only by the goons of the girl’s capitalist fathers? Guddu’s girl Sweety (Priyanka Chopra,endearing in her transparency) and her stammering lover-boy are chased by her brother, a tacky gangster Bhope who says ‘Jai Maharashtra’ with a pride that makes you condone his parochial prejudice.

Time it was when lovers confronted a class divide. Now the boy from UP finds his wedding to the Maharashtrian mulgi being disrupted by assorted political and non-political criminals.

The narrative subverts formulistic conventions, like the contrasting twins and vengeful dons, to define a world that operates on wild avarice. Riding the waves of this wicked kingdom is Shahid Kapoor, restrained and responsive to his twins’ characterizations, creating two different inner worlds from the same source without losing the genealogical core of the twins. It’s quite a leap for the actor who has done wicked before (in Fida) without being wicked.

Amole Gupte as the provincial goon-politician is delectably diabolic, childlike scheming and ruthless but also human in his hankerings. Priyanka Chopra’s Sweety is one of those determined won’t-take-a-no-for-an-answer soul-mates who you know won’t assume the missionary position in bed.

Technically sparkling and photographed (by Tassaduq Hussain) with unsettling candor Kaminey is a world that you would probably like to enter at your own risk. The music is as much a tribute to Vishal Bhardwaj’s mastery over the language of human relations as to his affinity to R.D. Burman with portions of Burman’s music and song songs popping up for no particular reason.

But then who said crime and the underworld had to make any sense?

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