Vishal Bhardwaj’s Kaminey has been the most anticipated film of this year. And justifiably so. His earlier works are products of a ripe, evolved imagination—one that gives flight to the ugly, and revels in it. In his two most successful films—Maqbool and Omkara—lurks a thick texture of rot and violence. It is in the air that the bad, foul-mouthed goons and gangsters inhabit. It’s in the milieu, the story, the climate and the temper.
Kaminey is no different, although alongside the evil, there’s its equally riveting—and flawed—flipside, the good. The bad and good are intertwined by blood, hate and circumstances in this multi-plot story—a narrative circle of interconnecting, time-jumping episodes that involve gangsters, druglords, their flunkies and some ordinary people. As in all his films, Bhardwaj blurs the boundaries of morality.
Suffice it to say, it is indeed the year’s best film so far.
It is everything you expected it to be: brutal, sexy, and not pretty. The song Dhan ta nan, which pulled off the film’s promotion, is, in fact, not one of the film’s best things. There’s much more happening here.
The story has too many strands for me to outline here. Essentially, it’s about Charlie and Guddu, twins separated after their father died a sudden, tragic death. They are each other’s diametric opposites: Guddu (Shahid Kapur) is an NGO worker who lives in a concrete Mumbai chawl; he stammers. He has planned his life: success in 2009, marriage in 2014, children in 2016, towards which he is earnestly working. Guddu is in love with Sweety (Priyanka Chopra), a feisty Maharashtrian girl, the sister of a gangster, Bhope (Amole Gupte). Charlie on the other hand, is only after money. He hedges bets in horse races and has no qualms about killing someone for a lakh of rupees. Fearless and gleefully self-destructive, he dreams of owning his own betting booth one day. Guddu and Charlie don’t see eye to eye.
These three characters are the story’s centre, but much of what makes Kaminey so engaging are the other characters propelling the story.
Bhardwaj uses the entire first half of the film in establishing the characters, but there’s hardly a dull moment because the scenes are bolstered by superb dialogues (written by Bhardwaj himself) and a humour that has his roots as much in the situations and the characters, as in the city in which the characters live. Gritty Mumbai, by the gutters, and in luxury hotel suites, gets its due. The entire film is visually enticing, filmed by Tassdduq Husain, who also shot Omkara.
You watch one potent scene after another, and then get to the climax. Kaminey has this effect: it psychs you up to accept everything it shows you. After I walked out of the theatre, I took time to absorb all that had happened. Which is not to say that the story is so intricately layered with meanings. It’s not. Kaminey is meant to be a thrilling ride; it is a smart and stylish potboiler.
Its calculated grunginess somewhat works against it. The cleverness of the writers (four people get credit: Vishal Bhardwaj, Abhishek Chaubey, Supratik Sen and Sabrina Dhawan) are evident is every scene. Although Bhardwaj never loses touch with the ordinary look of things, or the common touch, the style overpowers the film. The climax scene is a bizarrely funny episode that is meant to be ironic, but it gets drowned in all the noise.
Kaminey is in the genre of Pulp Fiction, Mean Streets, Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and Satya. In these films the multi-plot narrative is taken to the perfect pitch, where every character has a complete, satisfying graph. Here, it’s more a mosaic. Like one of its memorable characters, Kaminey is a tad too high on cocaine in parts.
Bhardwaj’s biggest achievement is in extracting performances out of Shahid Kapur and Priyanka Chopra. In two different roles, Kapur is always in character; the lisp and the stammer comes at just the right time. Kapur’s career should take a different turn after this performance, undoubtedly he can be one of the best actors we have. Chopra’s role as the mulgi (Maharashtrian for girl, that’s what her brother calls her) doesn’t seem laboured although the Maharashtrian accent doesn’t really have that raspy zing. The performance by Amole Gupte as the mean, hilarious gangster whose enemy is any outsider who comes to live in Mumbai is memorable.
Kaminey is a film of danger, hilarity and vibrant local colour. It is thrillingly alive; go get high.
Kaminey released in theatres across the country on Friday. In Mumbai, navi Mumbai and Thane, it is scheduled to release on 17 August, Monday.