– One line review: A disappointing neo-noir film. More style than substance.
– Rating: 2.5*
– Running time : 139 minutes
is about Surjan Shekawat, a police officer investigating the apparent suicide/suspicious death of Armaan Kapoor, a film star. He suffers from insomnia, brought on by the accidental drowning of his eight year old son, which tears his marital life with Roshni apart. Those involved in Armaan’s death – a small time pimp, Shashi and his chamcha, Themur, try to escape the law. Meanwhile, Shekawat is drawn to a prostitute working for Shashi, Rosie.
My thoughts, let me show you them
First off – highlight the text to read spoilery thoughts.
I will make no secret of it, I was looking forward to this movie. I like noir books and noir movies, so I was excited to see that same sense of style in the teaser for this movie set to ‘Muskaanein Jhooti Hain‘. However, I was sadly disappointed. I must say, if this film goes on to win awards, it shall surely be the triumph of style over substance.
The main problem with this movie is the plot, and nothing else. The acting is good (the three stars are adequate, but it was Nawazuddin Siddiqui as Themur who really stood out – especially once you see the range of his roles – as the surly, ends-justify-the-means CBI official Khan in Kahaani, or in the Gangs of Wasseypur movies). The music was also enjoyable, with ‘Muskaanein Jhooti Hain’ being my favourite, although I also liked ‘Jiya laage naa’. And, of course, the setting, the tone, the look of the movie was suited to a noir movie set in present day Mumbai.
The problem was the plot.
Leaving aside the fact that the denouement was predictable – it was telegraphed well in advance for astute watchers to pick up on – the plot was too simplistic for a noir movie. At its essence, there was no mystery, no shocking twist that is meant to be at the heart of the noir mystery movie.
In the end, there was no sense of Shekawat (and the audience, by proxy) peeling back layer upon layer of deception to reveal the truth. I was left wholly disappointed by the story once it was revealed, anybody familiar with The Others or The Sixth Sense would have guessed where this was going the moment Surjan’s new neighbour turns up – a medium claiming to be able to contact Shekawat’s dead son.
Kagti tries to draw a red herring across our path by hinting at a possible affair between Armaan’s widow and his childhood friend, but it is too feeble an attempt to draw our attention away from the main focus of the story.
I suspect that Zoya Akhtar and Reema Kagti (credited with the story) wrote the ending of the movie first, and then worked backward. I can see the brainstorming now: “A police officer meets a ghost without knowing it. He’s investigating a murder she caused in revenge for her own death. Now, since it is clear no one else can see the ghost except for the police officer – and the fact that she’s a ghost is THE (only) twist, we need to fool the audience, and make it appear that she interacts with people – but be very careful not to have anyone except the police guy interact with her. So who would be the kind of person no one responds to when she talks? A beggar – or a prostitute. I can’t see Kareena Kapoor agreeing to play a beggar, so prostitute it is. She already did it in Chameli, anyway. And how do prostitutes die? Because their clients kill them. And that’s it!”
And it is true. We see an early scene of Rosie talking to Sashi, who ignores her. But then he hardly speaks to any of his ‘girls’ as if they are human beings, so we do not think much of it. I will admit these scenes were done well.
One thing that surprised me was the teaser for the film spoiled an important reveal (the fact that Rosie was the girl with Armaan, caught on CCTV) by showing it on TV – I would not have expected the teaser to contain a scene so close to the denouement of the movie.
On the whole, though, this film disappointed me. It could have been awesome – but the makers chose to go with the predictable, safe story. I dislike films that assume viewers are morons and that a simplistic plot is enough for them.
Why you should watch it
If you’re an Aamir Khan fan. Or a fan of Kareena Kapoor. Definitely do not watch if you’re a fan of horror/thriller movies, however. You’ll be left as disappointed as I was.
[music|Muskaanein Jhooti Hai: Suman Sridhar]