Life badi kutti cheez hain“, says a character early on in the new Vishal Bharadwaj movie, Kaminey. This theme is the center of many events and sub-plots in this roller coaster ride of a movie. It twists and turns the fates of its characters inside out and upside down and downside up when you least expect them. It screams out loud that good actions and bad actions don’t necessarily result in good karma and bad karma…it’s more complicated and random than that. We are treated to many vignettes of the swine theme throughout the movie (random mongrels walking into the frame, characters bow-wowing etc.). As if to further prove the point of “Life’s a bitch”, the movie itself is suffering from collections due to the hit it took with the current swine flu situation in Western Maharashtra, which has caused the theatres to remain closed. Life is indeed a Bitch.
In the olden days when Dharam-paaji was the do-all superhero of Hindi movies, he masticated and spat out two words with tremendous regularity – “Kutte Kaminey“…this movie takes those words along with a generous serving of some saliva and blood and makes a pulpous concoction out of them and presents in a blood soaked, rain soaked, mud soaked fashion to it’s audience. Having said that, Kaminey is not an easy to digest dish, it does not believe in spoon feeding it’s audience with the characters and their intentions. This might cause much confusion and “yeh kya bakwaas hain” remarks from the casual movie-goer. Note: I am not saying that there is anything wrong with the usual movie-goer, it’s just that they are not used to movies which demand active participation (and attention) from the audience to enjoy the proceedings. It demands you to join in the proceedings and experience it as “first-hand” as the medium will allow for it. If you let yourself do that, it promises to leave you all bloody and rain soaked at the end of it (and this I mean in a good way).
“Kaminey” is a director’s movie, with the camera merely serving as the eyes through which Vishal conceived the concept – brilliant Tasadduq Hussain – check out the difference in the frames from his work in Omkara and here. The large ensemble cast of mostly unknown actors (save for the lead actors – Shahid Kapoor and Priyanka Chopra) helps in giving the required anonymity to the characters and how they react to the events that unfold. For example: Amole Gupte’s Shekhar Bhope could have been played by Nana Patekar (and would have made a great Bhope too), but the audience would have immediately formed a bond with the character and painted Bhope in their own shades. Same with the Tashi character – Danny Denzogpa comes to mind immediately. Aside from the ensemble cast, the real surprises are Shahid Kapoor and Priyanka Chopra. Both these actors are in a completely unfamiliar territory and they successfully deliver the goods under Vishal’s guidance. Shahid creates two very distinct characters of Charlie and Guddu, through his mannerisms and his eyes – Guddu has kindness in his eyes and Charlie has angry eyes. Priyanka Chopra goes to town with her Marathi Mulagi portrayal of Sweety Bhope. She is spot on in her Marathi dialogues and has managed to leave the glamorous starry aura about her at the coat-check. (I can only imagine what a young Madhuri Dixit would have done with this role – Thanks to A for pointing it out – Madhuri would have been a blast).
About the music, I have already written about in an earlier post. Vishal has a tremendous knack of filming songs in a huge crowd. They do not seem choreographed in a 1-2-3-4 fashion, and have a quality which makes the audience a part of the on-screen rollicking crowd: Just like Beedi from Omkara, Fatak and Raat ke Dhaai Baje here are brilliantly picturised.
The movie is littered with many nods to old Hindi movies and Hollywood movies: some are very obvious, some not so obvious. Sampling:
– The guitar case as an object of everyone’s desire: Robert Rodriguez’s El Mariachi and Desperado
– The finale is reminiscent of True Romance‘s climax or even Desperado
– The judwaa brothers is an old tried Hindi movie formula
– The dead father is IMO just short of “Mera baap chor hain” (BTW, this is the only bit of the flashback that did not work for me, it was a misfit)
– The use of RD’s music : The Great Gambler’s “Do lafzon kee hain” and Apna Desh‘s “Duniya mein logon ko” at strategic places
Life’s a bitch and the overarching dog theme: Alejandro González Iñárritu’s Amores Perros (Love is a bitch)
There are other subtle nods, which I won’t get into here, it’s for an avid movie lover to figure them out. Will post them once the movie is out of the cinemas so as not to ruin it for those three people who read this. (For all you know, they might not be intentional on Vishal’s part, but then that’s what good cinema is all about: you inspire from others and still keep it original, and become a source of inspiration for the next wave.)
Having said that, Kaminey is not all perfect, here are a few things that did not work for me (mentioned about the dead father flashback above):
– The Dhan te nan song was completely unnecessary (but is a knock out composition) and did not do a bit in moving the story forward
– Charlie’s end result was very cliche`
– The Charlie and Mikhail relationship was left questionably ambiguous, I think Vishal shied away from portraying them as true “partners” (and yes, the Dhan Te nan song might make more sense if they were “partners”)
Without giving the movie away, the climax is the major high point of the movie: it’s hard not to compare it with a grand finale of a symphony played by an ensemble orchestra, when all the instruments and musicians come together to a crescendo. One of the most memorable climax sequences in Hindi cinema. Go, get soaked.