Sunday, June 08, 2008


Cast: Rajeev Khandelwal
Director: Raj Kumar Gupta
Runtime: 90 min. (citation needed)
Rating: *****
Genre: Thriller, Drama

Ladies and Gentlemen! You’ve read about it in the newspapers! Now, shudder as you observe, before your very eyes, that most rare and tragic of nature’s mistakes, I give you…the average man. Physically unremarkable, it has instead a deformed set of values. Notice the hideously bloated sense of humanity’s importance. The club footed conscience and the withered optimism.
- The Joker (The Killing Joke)

In Alan Moore’s The Killing Joke, The Joker recounts his origins to a captive Commissioner Gordon. He was a run of the mill conman, and he never truly reveals what his name used to be then, and through his tale describes to the upstanding cop the philosophy of one bad day. That one bad day that snatched from him his innocent wife. That one bad day that destroyed him and his face. That one bad day that made him insane miles beyond the farthest limits of insanity. That one bad day that made him the clowned prince of crime. That one bad day, and what it can do even to the most upstanding man. That it can batter him to beyond a point of no return.
Aamir Ali (Rajeev Khandelwal), touches down to Mumbai, having left his practice of two years in London for good. He would have stayed there for ever, and I suspect he could have. But he doesn’t fancy his chances under the present climate of ethnic distrust and suspicion, and he probably hopes to bide his time here with his family, and when the season changes he would return to his flourishing life. But that is for the future. He might believe everything is in his own hands, and he’s playing his cards alright. Heck, everything feels totally under control. But this day, the day when he sets his foot back on home soil, the day when his family curiously is seen nowhere to receive him, the day when he calls home and nobody picks up, the day when two anonymous men on a bike ride up to him and toss a Nokia 6610, the day when it rings and he picks it up and a stranger is on the other line, the day when he is told his family has been taken hostage and they would be killed at a moment’s notice lest he comply with their instructions, this day would be his own private one bad day.
Here is where I assure you, I have revealed nothing, and if my discussion of this gravitating piece of filmmaking seems to be skimming along the surface, so be it. I certainly wouldn’t want to be the idiot who spoils the joy of others. At the same time, nothing would stop me from declaring that this is the best film we’ve made since that masterstroke we know as Johnny Gaddaar. And it is every bit as great a thriller as that one, with tons of moral conundrums we find ourselves the middle of.
Clocking at 90 minutes this is a lean economical film that pulls out all the stops to put us smack in the middle of a city and engulfs us with it. The city here is a central character, and the shape it assumes thoroughly reflects on the way the film unfolds. It stinks when it wants to, it feels rotten at times, and on some occasions it feels a maddening place. A harsh irrational hell of random and pointless human existence. Aamir runs for his family in here, from pillar to post, with little or no help. He’s not a hero by even the farthest stretches of imagination, and he’s being broken to pieces from inside. He’s tired, he’s asthmatic, yet he runs. With a red suitcase in his hand he clutches most dearly too, cutting a picture of such intense sympathy you would want to cry, he runs. This is a heartbreaking performance from Rajeev Khandelwal, who I hear is an actor of repute on the television.
There’s the proverbial hooker with a golden heart in there too, and when the opportune time arrives to measure her worth, her actions seem more valuable than any treasure. Such is the brilliance of filmmaking here, our hearts well up at the joy of her existence. It is the mark of a good film, for it realizes that, and in Aamir’s eyes we find the acknowledgement reflected. It is the first occasion when his tears attain full flow, and it is a touching moment of an overpour of honest emotions.
As I sit alone at this hour in the night writing this review, I’ve realized this film has left a certain degree of a devastating impact on me so much so that I’m constantly losing myself in a stream of thoughts that juxtapose Aamir against his fate. It is fascinating and heartbreaking at the same time, and I am arguing with myself on whose side the film considers itself to be – with the man who writes his own fate, or the one who thinks he is writing his own fate. Aamir, beyond a shred of doubt, is of the latter kind. He considers himself successful, and he might be, for what counts for a successful life in this world is the perfection achieved in impersonating the next person. As in clones, where everybody is imitating everybody.

“With the help of favorable measures great individuals might be reared who would be both different from and higher than those who theretofore have owed their existence to mere chance. Here we may still be hopeful: in the rearing of exceptional men.”
- Thus Spake Zarathustra
Friedrich Nietzsche spoke of the Overman, the next stage in our evolution not necessarily a product of biological sciences but forces beyond them. The man of action, the man of ideals ought to be jolted into action by his environment. That is when he shows his worth, if any. In Aamir, the man who passes for the bad guy speaks at the other end of the phone, quietly stamping his authority and his willpower. He doesn’t flinch, and he draws out Aamir’s predicament as if he was God. Or maybe, the messenger of evil. But then, he has taken a stand and he’s willing to be counted. The nature of his allegiance might be wrong, but it could be argued he has risen above the drudgery of everyday life. What this one bad day asks of Aamir, with the evil man as its instrument, is to take a stance in his life. For good or bad doesn’t matter, but at least jump out of the line and be counted. It asks of him if he is a worthy adversary to him, a hero so as to speak, or would he still remain that commonplace loser who always does what he’s told. It is an examination, if you could look at it that way. You might wonder why he chooses to do what he does at the end. Maybe our evolution lay beyond a lifetime, in the same manner by which Dave jumped a thousand zones and dimensions to evolve into the star-child in 2001: A Space Odyssey.
The film has done what it can do though, to stand up and be counted, and that is to achieve a level of brilliance in filmmaking experienced only few times a year, or sometimes never.. A film where technique serve the film and not the other way round, where the filmmaking isn’t rigid in its adherence to one style but a multitude of tricks to draw us into itself. As a film that draws inspiration from that 2005 festival circuit hit Cavite (the filmmakers of the original are given acknowledgement right at the start), it is a work of great craft so much so that it could be called a work of art. A film from where much could be learnt for young filmmakers and screenwriters, most of them having to do a thing or two with honesty and truth. Maybe, in its own way, what The Magnificent Seven is to Seven Samurai. But I’ve seen great films vanish before my eyes, like last year, and I think a film can only do so much as far as writing its own fate is concerned. The rest is left to us, to recognize it, to grab its feet and place it on our shoulders and give it a ride of its life. If ever a film deserved that, it is this little overwhelming gem here, and I sure do hope to contribute my little bit in promoting it. Maybe even shout on rooftops. Of course, I would wish it the very best of luck for its tryst with its fate.


Neeraj said...

Gr8 review dude... aamir is indeed a movie to be seen, and then seen again. For seldom does a movie entertain as well as hurt at it's own will. Aamir does that and the cheesy line of "kaun kehta hai aadmi apni kismat khud likhta hain" becomes so so relevant and meaningful.
An absolute gem the movie and your review does justice to it too..

Gaurav Parab said...

If it is good enough for Satish Naidu, it it good enough for me.

Wish i had the time to see this.

Totaly cut out from the rest of the world these days :)

Will try to catch this in two years time.

Anonymous said...

I think for me the best part was when in the end his mind becomes clear and from that timid scared expression, his turns to a self-assured and confident one who knows exactly how his fate will change in just a few seconds.


P.S: Being in a communications management school, I've had till now the opportunity to watch two brilliant movies : Two Women (Iran) and An Affair of Love or Une Liaison d’Amour (France) Check them out!