Inkaar – Review

Hmm, artificial drugs good day to release the film. It’s a sure-shot doomsday for competition, search because Chulbul Pandey is here not only to chew a new villain (Prakash Raj) but also to swallow all rivals (if there were any left, in the first place!). I know I am a wrong person to review Dabangg 2, because I am an unabashed and self-proclaimed big-time Salman Khan fan, and this film is made for us.

 

But first, it set me thinking why the wannabe copies didn’t work ( e.g. Khiladi 786, or the earlier much more idiotic Son of Sardaar):

a) Salman’s persona is paradoxically more muted but at the same time more explosive than his counterparts- it’s the innate charismatic weight which he carries that makes him what he is ; and his portrayal though may be dismissed as ‘masala’ and ‘no-brainer’ is actually never farcical – make no mistake, he is doing it all earnestly but (and that is a big BUT) without it being evident or taking himself too seriously.

Come to think of, the critics were never kind to Big B and his films either in his heydays, but the connect he had with the audience is a legacy that actually only Salman has explored.  The critics hurled the same complaints at Big B in his heydays – no variety, same old formula, doesn’t explore his potential, plays safe and so on.

b) Dialogues are spouted with a tongue-in-cheek casualness, rather than recited out loudly like a sermon

c) his films are more rooted despite being larger-than-life (sample: walking in a crowded Kanpur market replete with cows, he muses amusedly whether he has wandered into a field!)

As for Dabangg 2 – thankfully it’s a proper sequel, referencing to the earlier film (complete with the titles running to the older film’s montages), and takes it forward from there. So now Pandeyji is in Kanpur, and here he crosses path with a new villain, and he corrects that wrong in his own way.

Debutant director Arbaaz Khan keeps much the same flavour, pace & milieu of the first film. But what he adds are dollops of quieter moments, that (IMHO) always make a film watchable the second time round : in this, we have those tender moments with his father – whether sleeping on the ‘chhat‘ or playing a harmless phone prank, or in a subdued moment sipping hot chai stating his love for his dad; or, with his brother (the ‘jungle’ joke is a killer!); or the cute ‘nok-jhonk’ with his wife ( who somehow i found getting mock- ‘naaraaz’ with him a bit too much, and was irritatingly repetitive) but she gets her moment in the hospital scene towards the end.

The writers play to the gallery offering enough lines to take back. The editing is crisp.  The sound design is superb.  Overall, Dabangg 2 has slicker production values than its predecessor.

Sajid-Wajid come up with a score which is the first film’s exact replica but with new tunes, and deliver fairly well, though the songs are not all that well-placed – they just come on without warning. Kareena’s ‘Fevicol‘ elicited enough whistles in the theatre. (And since Fevicol was mentioned as a ‘brand partner’ in the pre-titles, so I guess the makers have ensured to take due permission unlike the Zandu Balm controversy that erupted previously).

And now to Salman Khan – he just gets better with each film. It’s his film, his showcase, and it’s hard to imagine anyone else doing a Chulbul Pandey – the cheeky corrupt cop albeit a family man with the heart in its right place. Just superb. And yes, he’s looking good too.

Since the film is designed around Salman Khan, other artistes are somewhat short-changed, including Prakash Raj, who I felt was not provided adequate platform.  Still, amongst those that do stand out are Vinod Khanna’s endearing father-act and Deepak Dobriyal as the villain’s brother.

In short – go get entertained!

With a tantalizing tagline ‘Office politics gets hotter’, find Inkaar is a sensitive film that deals with ‘office sexual harrasment’ in a more complex manner than it did in Aitraaz (though, medications let me hasten to add, that film was very enjoyable in its own way).

First the caveat – this is not your usual drab office. The setting is an advertisement agency, hence there is a huge quotient of glamour, casualness & freedom. Most of us would rush through Mumbai’s cruel traffic to mark our e-attendance on time, or sulk over sales numbers doing a Manmohan Singh like deafening silence, here the characters have it rather easy where it comes to the core work. Ideas flow naturally – they even change an entire campaign overnight in a hotel room, clients get bagged with just a few witty lines & the National Creative Director doesn’t seem to be to worried about her staff supposedly pan-India delivering on time. In that, sadly, Sudhir Mishra has alienated a large section of his urban audience, which in any case were his audience! I doubt the film will even see through its opening week in single screens or small sections.

Now for the good parts.

The story revolves around two ambitious professionals – Rahul Verma (Arjun Rampal) and Maya Luthra (Chitrangada Singh). The film opens with Maya (National Creative Director) slapping a case of ‘sexual harassment’ on the agency’s CEO Rahul Verma. A committee pf senior officials is formed chaired by an external arbiter Mrs Kamdar ( Deepti Naval in a frustratingly useless cameo).

There begins the intricate tales of their twisted professional lives as each of the two come and present their case. The movie shuttles back & forth pretty seamlessly as layers upon layers get unravelled to their past as to why they have come to this face-off. So is Maya right in her claim, or is she avenging her unrequited love for Rahul, with a side-bonus of eyeing his position (which, we are told, is the natural progression in her career graph). Or, is it the reverse – that, she is eyeing the top-position with a sweet revenge thrown in the side. Or, is it Rahul who is frustrated at his protégé getting too big for her boots and is building up impregnable walls to protect what he feels is his rightful turf?

Questions and questions. And no correct answers. Maya is a refreshing heroine in Hindi cinema. She knows what she wants. She doesn’t forget to thank John ( the advertisement agency’s co-owner) at an award function, knowing fully well who holds the purse-strings. She will leave her supposed fiancé dangling at the airport when she learns that her rival has pre-poned an important meeting (allegedly to spite her). She makes all the right statements to get the arbiter on her side ( Hum auratein hoti hi aise hain). She even leaves some uncomfortable facts out of her narrative ( which Rahul eventually reveals in his statements). But beneath all this, she has a heart, and is as human as one can be. So she gets pangs of jealousy & insecurity when she sees her man greeting a pretty lady at a hotel lobby with an overt familiarity. She also can’t handle that a model has visited his home.  And she is by all means a daughter who cares for her mother.

Rahul, on the other hand, is pretty one-tone, but equally with shades that are not any whiter than teeth that his client’s product helps to shine. He has his equal fallings, jealousies, insecurities and attractions which adds to their muddy relationship, though I felt Mishra has been largely kind to his character although at the risk of being a speed-breaker in the story. It’s Maya & her actions which take the story forward ( be it her sudden decision to move to Delhi office after she feels rejected by him, or equally surprising returning back to the head office with a higher position, or the very basis of the film – throwing a sexual harassment case on his face!)

Even Maya’s styling has more details – an impetuous look when she is young ( complete with an alluring piercing right below her lips), and a more corporate staid and straightened hair style when she climbs the corporate ladder. On the other hand, Mishra has been very lazy with Rahul.  He looks the same through out the years.

As an audience, we hear two sides of the same story, often the same incident narrated through two different versions.

Ultimately it’s about two strong individuals who have to allow for all the years & the mud to settle down for the truth to reveal itself – that they were so much in love that they hurt each other.

In the end, Maya succintly puts it – ‘can people like us who need something more than just love ever make meaningful relationships?’ – and that is a very potent & real statement, and the film’s essential core… perhaps, also for many of us! Never mind the film’s packaging, but in one sentence Mishra has shown the audience a strikingly truthful mirror (as also rubbishing the dreamy filmi love stories).

The film is well narrated in the sense that it is not boring while it lasts & keeps the audience pretty much hooked …but somewhat at a distance too. It’s not something that blows your mind out. But seeps in quietly. Will I care for or remember Maya or Rahul later on? Probably unlikely. There was some element or some note missing somewhere. I am unable to place my finger on it correctly.

Maybe it could be that of late we are so accustomed to either hard-hitting masala fares or stark realism that a middle-of-the-road cinema unnerves us.

The length is sufficient. The script is well written, neatly weaving in all the relevant points, and also the back-and-forth movement is very organized. The dialogues, though, at places felt a bit artificial. The cinematography uses some very tight close-ups & hand-held scenes lending it a sense of urgency.

The background score is average, and the sound design tad poor. Often the background score drowned a few dialogues (was this unintentional or by design?). The songs (Shantanu Moitra) do not leave any impact. I couldn’t recall a single one as i stepped out of the theatre.

Chitrangada Singh is very good. That she has very soft moist eyes (& uses them effectively) make her hard-as-nails act even more lethal. Arjun Rampal suits the role, and does the CEO’s role perfectly. There is an array of supporting cast who do their jobs adequately. Rehana Sultana (Of Dastak fame) makes a miniscule come-back too as Maya’s mother.

The direction is even & the film’s pace is smooth. Sudhir Mishra doesn’t allow it to get too serious or drab.

In totality – it’s a different fare, very sensibly made, raises a few pertinent questions & I’d say go for it for a change of taste.

 
Overall – Recommended for viewing!

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