Tuesday, August 25, 2009

KAMINEY: MOVIE REVIEW


Cast: Shahid Kapur, Priyanka Chopra, Amole Gupte
Director: Vishal Bharadwaj
Runtime: 150 min. (citation needed)
Verdict: Ridiculously out-of-tone pretentious mediocrity. And really really long
Genre: Crime, Thriller

        Either Kaminey is the most brilliantly subtle comedy ever, or it is so astonishingly blind that it doesn’t realize every moment in every situation is potential screwball, and the ending is an absolute pie-fight. I suspect it is the latter. I thought I was laughing with it, but as it turned out, I think I was laughing at it. I mean, I don’t remember anytime watching a comedy with a shaky cam and a kitschy melodramatic flashback. And let me lay out the news for you real straight – No one here is really kaminey. The three principal characters are full of good-intentions and guilt and psychological blah, and the rest of the farce is an assortment of your run-of-the-mill colorfully designed characters. So there is less of a moral dilemma, and more of a, you know, I-am-dark-and-bleak pandering.
        Let me explain. For that let me cite a name – Priyadarshan – and a title – Malamaal Weekly. Mr. Priyadarshan’s stock film is supposed to be the ensemble screwball, where everything seems to be reverse engineered from an all-in-the-family climax. Criticize him and his repetitive films all you may, for their crass humor, for their clichés, for the ridiculous endings. But the man is Mr. Smarty Pants, and he is always aware the tone his silly films warrant. And within them, he so subtly creates characters, who upon close scrutiny, always reveal a certain ambiguous morality that works way beyond the genre.
        You see, as audiences, we care for characters when they feel like real people, when they seem to be capable of being both a Good Samaritan and a selfish bugger. It is when they do something bad, something amoral, that we actually feel betrayed, or hurt, and that is what is at the heart of the best of film noir. The film noir works on moral ambiguity, not moral certainty. I mean, if the characters are all bad, why would I feel the need to bother? Mogambo is supposed to be killed right? But you care for Langda Tyagi, and detest him. The rest of the guys in Kaminey, behind their zany exterior, are nothing more than two-bit comic-strip villains. That is why I invoke Malamaal Weekly, because it is a film that actually is the way Kaminey ought to have been. The Priyadarshan film has more characters, each guided by selfish desires, and it is a darker film than the pretentious obviousness of grey-ish Kaminey. Every scene is so grey, so bleak, so bereft of light that Mr. Bharadwaj seems to be hammering down his moralistic viewpoint. And really I didn’t give a damn.
        I wouldn’t discuss the plot. There is no need to. There is nothing extraordinary. It is A meets B meets C, where F meets E meets D meets C, and A meets C and blah and blah, at the end of which you feel you have taken an exercise in a math class. Guy Ritchie does it in his two best movies – Snatch and Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels – both funny, colorful and ultimately pointless. Still he is wise not to indulge in moral pandering and let the story unfurl in its glorious fashion, wit and all. Mr. Bharadwaj, on the other hand, seems to be under the impression that he is inventing/redefining a genre. He is not. He is polluting it. Needlessly so. There is nothing original about it. We are only interested because the film is giving incomplete information, and it is structured like one of those quiz questions where you need to identify the face concealed behind the square blocks. Speaking of which, do those square things have a name? Supply me the word and I shall ask the almighty to bless you. Coming back, if not for that, the plot never leaves the beaten track. There is nothing surprising. There is only what, not how. And what is always easier and mediocre than how.
        On top of which, Mr. Bharadwaj jerks us around with that shaky camera of his. I hated that. It brings nothing to the table. There are entire sequences where you wish you just hurled something in the general direction of the screen so that the damn thing just stops for a moment. Look, let not a misguided idea lead you to argue that the visual style is something that is supposed to be ugly, to reflect its characters. No, it isn’t ugly, it is just plain uninteresting. Scenes just don’t stay long enough to register an impact.
        Let me put it this way. Kaminey is a film of a good pupil indulging in a pretentious little exercise, no more. There’re sequences where Mr. Bharadwaj shows his true subtle self, with his impressive visual styling. Look how brilliantly he uses camera focus in the scene where the politician Bhope Bhau (Mr. Gupte) is being interviewed. He composes the frame impeccably, with the real man, out of focus, sitting on a chair in the foreground, and the television image in focus, in the background. That is the image of the man. The real man is blurred during the interview, but as soon as he gets a personal call the focus swaps, and we see the real man. But to what gain. We learn no more insight into him. He could have had depth only if Mr. Bharadwaj had tried. But as it turns, the focus brings in a man who is an absolute baddie.
        Mr. Bharadwaj often succeeds in creating tension too. Like a brilliant sequence of two guys holding guns to each other, and it feels like a rather refreshing take on the overused Russian roulette sequence. He stretches the tension, but lets it go in a fizz of utter predictability. His editing too is driven more by the mechanics of plot rather than any kind of moral/emotional reasons on part of his characters (for e.g. the irritatingly edited sequence with Bhope Bhau with Charlie Boy and the cops with Guddu), and that nullifies any attempts at psychological insights. Yet, when they come, they simply feel clichéd. The fact of the matter is Mr. Bharadwaj could have offered a subtle and brilliant genre film. He could have realized and respected the simple fact that plot drives his film, and only tinkered with it, keeping the characters mere puppets. He could have easily edited a good half-hour off, cut down on the simplifications, explanations, flashback, and instead churned a film that is completely present. That could at least have made us aware of all the characters, instead of us just having glimpses of many of them and wondering why they are even here except for their primarily perfunctory nature. He doesn’t even love his characters, and at the end resorts to a very convenient and obligatory flushing. He could have understood the funny nature of it all, and instead of gimmickry found refuge in screwball. Instead of bullets and fire, it could have been a pie-fight accompanied by a musical number. The thing is he simply doesn’t.



Note: I ask you reader, for I’m no medical expert. Is it possible, in a situation of a defective speech, to replace a “s” with a “ph”. I mean, aren’t the speech movements totally different in both cases, and I fail to understand how one could be replaced with the other.

12 comments:

Just Another Film Buff said...

It makes us do Terry Malloy all over , this film, doesn't it? More than what it is, we tend to think about what all it could have been...

But that is because it presents too many options, finally never picking one...

Perx said...

I don't know man.. i liked it.. better than the crap that's been coming out lately..
anyway.. the s and ph thing, i think its possible, if u try speaking these 2 words, the only difference is the placement of tongue.. maybe he couldn't place it right between his lips...

Atrisa said...

What are you saying? I thoroughly enjoyed my nap.

man in the iron mask said...

@Srikanth, you know, I don’t think Mr. Bharadwaj had anything on his plate to begin with. This is a minor idea, with an extremely mediocre plot. The thing is, and I may not have looked deep enough, that I don’t see any options either. The tone is conflicted. The characters non-existent. I don’t see anything.
For all its mediocrity, Kubrick’s The Killing was at least trying to be clever. And was trying in a new way. This one’s using the beaten track and the beaten methods. To withhold information is not in any a clever way of narrating a plot. A good thriller is when we’re enjoying it out, and wondering rather than being busy figuring the hell out what is happening. And Mr. Bharadwaj doesn’t do us any favors with his awful visual strategy. We don’t get to see anything.

Archita Saw it where? In R-World kya? God don’t they have great comfort out there in those Ahmadabad multiplexes. I saw it in Rahul, and I and my friend were sweating out the whole way. Not a very ideal situation to, you know, enjoy a nap.

Atrisa said...

Arre we took the sofa seats. How could we afford it? The 7am show costs us Rs 80 :) Gujjus rock, they leave no time slot to mint money.

The Ancient Mariner said...

I think you are quite harsh on the movie...i thoroughly enjoyed it...

Swapnila said...

'Kaminey' was pure masturbation by Vishal Bhardwaj, done only for his pleasure. It was scattered all over the place and he didn't know how to tie it up neatly. The characters weren't well etched. It had me confused so many times. Wonder what intelligence were the critics talking of? It looked stuffed to me as if he was making a desperate attempt to look hip. I have read people appreciating things like the presence of a dog while Sweety and Guddu talk about marriage. Give me a fucking break. The picturization of 'Dhan Te Nan' gave me a major headache. I don't even wish to talk about the reasons why the brothers hated each other so much. It was the concoction of a hare brained 3 year old. No one was a 'Kameena' in the true sense of the word. Very disheartening to see the sudience and the critics lapping it up. Do they think that its a sacrilege to utter anything against him?? Glad that the box office returns will make people sit up and wonder. Did anyone read about how some audience in Punjab ransacked a theater complaining about the sound and the bad print?? The Manager tried his level best to explain to them that it was no fault of his, the print came like this!! Very disappointing movie, left me feeling very sad that we Indians are still grappling to emerge as a worthy and true audience. We endorse such movies while a plethora of the really good ones die a quick death. We're the sole ones to blame.

Perx said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Amar said...

Yes...Love Aaj Kal was quite original and refreshing compared to Kaminey...Come on, tomorrow you will say: You know, Meet The Spartans was thoroughly enjoyable compared to 300...What a joke !!!

mentalie said...

i couldn't agree more! and that said, who in god's name was the kamina in kamine? i couldn't spot one other than the kid who agrees to shut up for money but sings for chocolate!

man in the iron mask said...

Mentalie, super catch!!! Bravo!!

How in God's name could I miss that. Yes, yes, yes, the kid was the only kamina in the film.

sFunn.com said...

i heard the movie
was pretty ok.

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