I have been a fan of Shimit’s since Ab Tak Chappan, and while disappointed by Chak De, still went into this film hoping he’d redeem himself.
The story is fairly simplistic – and I shall get to its flaws later – but writer Jaideep Sahni sticks to what he knows best – the realistic middle-class Punjabi milieu. Note the phrase ‘realistic middle class’. As in Khosla Ka Ghosla. This explains why his worst efforts have been set in Sarsson-da-Khet-land, populated by Chopra-esque Punjabis. Fortunately for us, this film has none of that.
The characterisation is good, and the casting is perfect. The porn-addict Giri is brilliantly cast, as is Nitin Rathore. Gauhar Khan slips into her role of Koena Shaikh with ease. Boss Puri is good. Even the other salespersons are outstanding, right down to their attire. Ranbir is superb. The only sore thumb is the Padamsee girl, but if you can accept her as a flaky SoBo (sorry, SoMu) type, she passes muster. So what if she’s a Dadar girl in the film.
It is a story that most of us will identify with – we’ve all had to sell something at some point in our lives, and we’ve all had to deal with pesky colleagues and a prick of a boss. While Shimit initially captured the office politics perfectly, the politics quickly changed into more of middle-school-classroom-type bullying. And you kind of wonder at HP’s (as Ranbir’s character is known) restraint, till you realise that the full effects of any incident hit him with a lag. And is that why the otherwise calm HP gives in to some late and uncharacteristic ranting? You feel for HP, but you wish that Shimit had dared to attach some questionable morals to the character. In my opinion, that would have raised the film to another level. He’s tried a middle-of-the-road approach that works in parts but leaves you wondering about what might have been. But – and this is saying a lot – even when you know how this is going to end, you still wait for it to happen, to reach its very predictable conclusion, because the character works for you. And I also felt it was paisa-vasool just because of the great dialogue and witty lines.
The film plays out at more or less a low level and we thankfully do not have the melodrama that most Indian directors love to resort to. And no songs!
And just in case you were wondering, of course it has its flaws. The whole romance bit, even though its tone was low and even, seemed grafted on as an after-thought – and Padamsee’s lacklustre performance only makes it worse.
Let’s look at the glitches in the story. There’s the bit where HP refuses to bribe a Purchase Manager and even puts in a written complaint against him. For some unfathomable reason, he’s not sacked, but let off with a tongue lashing, and is even given time to complete his training! Convenient, and, in a film that relies simply on the power of a realistic script, it struck a very jarring note. As did the part in the second half where Boss Puri discovers the secret of the phone numbers. So far so good. But why would he keep calling the numbers when it is clear – especially to him – that the office is empty? The reveal was such that it would be clear even to a moron that the receptionist was involved. Why the drama? Why the pathetically amateurish attempt at suspense and entrapment? He could have simply called in the morning. More effective, greater probability of success and, as far as the audience is concerned, more plausible.
Then, the ‘evil’ Boss finally gets his comeuppance, but his resultant change of heart is so mysterious, it comes so suddenly and silently that you go “What the fuck made that happen? What epiphany, what catharsis?” And the explanation seems contrived, inadequate. But I suppose God and Indian film-makers work in mysterious ways.
Having said that, I would still recommend you watch Rocket Singh to see a different kind of Hindi film. Refreshingly low-key. Free of hyperbole, item-numbers, mustard fields and Manhattan. It’s quite likely that you will watch the film in a near-empty theatre, and that will make you truly understand just how painful the tastes (Love Aaj Kal, De Dana Dan) of the Indian movie audience are. I am one of the harshest critics of the Yash Raj School of film-making, but I wish we had given this film a chance. And that’s the unfortunate lesson the fate of this film teaches all of us, including Shimit – in real life, nice guys do finish last.
But for a couple of hours in that dark and depressingly empty theatre, this film made me wish that weren’t true.
Poonam, Vee, Vimal and the rest have come up with the Avant Garde Bloggers Award 2009. Please visit Poonam’s blog or Vee’s blog to learn about the categories and the rules. There’s just a week left before nominations close, so get over there and nominate your favourite posts!