Director: Akshat Verma
Cast: Saif Ali Khan, Sobhita Dhulipala, Akshay Oberoi, Isha Talwar, Deepak Dobriyal, Vijay Raaz, Kunaal Roy Kapur, Shenaz Treasurywala, Amyra Dastur, Neil Bhoopalam, Shivam Patil.
The title is Marathi slang — Kaala-Kaandi. It means something that is not being done in the right manner or is horribly wrong. And as the title suggests, right from the first frame, we are reminded that nothing can go right for its characters.
What makes “Kaalakaandi” interesting, though, is its dark comedy, easy to relate situations and characters. It is one of the easiest films to love and one of the hardest to think of as a work of art. It approaches the notion of pure filmmaking as entertainment; it is a nearly flawless example of- itself. It lacks a lesson or message and is content to show three sets of people facing a series of interlocking challenges they face one night. Set in Mumbai, with a variety of quirky, pseudo characters awake after midnight, it reflects the unpredictable life in the city. But, they seldom find themselves intertwined in a bizarre series of coincidences.
Boldly told, what happens to the characters apart from the nightmarish and bizarre nature of their experiences can only be described as screwball logic. While the plot unravels like the pages of a thriller, the humor seems labored. You witness this in the first scene and in the climax. In the opening scene, Saif Ali Khan is in his doctor’s clinic where his doctor sugar coats his diagnosis with, “You do not suffer from ulcers, hence you don’t have perforating ulcers. Instead, you suffer from stomach cancer.”
For a person who never experienced the excesses of life, this unpleasant bit of news hits like a ton of bricks. So when he returns home, where the wedding preparation of his younger brother Angad (Akshay Oberoi) is under-way, he sips alcohol and tries a narcotic substance. This sets the ball rolling for a roller-coaster cinematic experience. In the second situation, Zubin (Kunal Roy Kapur) is in low spirits because his girlfriend is migrating to America. Just before her flight, as a farewell gesture and to celebrate the birthday of their friend Ann (Shenaz Treasurywala), they land up at a pub which predictably gets raided. How they escape from the clutches of the police and what fate has in store for them, forms the crux of their story.
In the third narrative, Vijay Raaz and Deepak Dobriyal, work as flunkies for the local gangster. After collecting the protection money from a film producer, how greed overcomes them, forms the crux of their fate. What keeps the quirky characters afloat are the spunky, rustic dialogues that gag by themselves. For instance, when Angad asks his older brother about his sexual preference, Saif in his typical style blurts out, “Madame Curie, curious,” he asks this after Saif’s escapades with a transgender. The dialogues between Saif and the transvestite also bear testimony to this.
On the performance front, all actors have put their heart and soul into their characters and they shine on screen. Unfortunately, the characters are two-dimensional and cardboard thin. Of the supporting cast, Sobhita Dhulipala as Zubin’s girlfriend, Amyra Dastur as Neha — Angad’s fiance, Isha Talwar as the wedding photographer and Saif’s love interest, Treasurywala as Ann along with Shivam Patil as her boyfriend Jason who calls himself “Jehangir Jehangir” have their moments of on-screen glory.
Overall with good production quality, debutant director Akshat Verma’s attempt at this noir comedy is engaging but it goes without saying that the script material tries to sell itself a little too hard.