Kaalakaandi Review

Saif Ali Khan plays Rileen in “Kaalakaandi” who is angry that he has got cancer despite leading a boringly righteous life, and decides to drink, smoke, take drugs and see a naked woman – all in one night. (photo provided)

Cinestaan Film Company Pvt. Ltd. and Flying Unicorn Entertainment present: “Kaalakaandi”

Produced by: Ashi Dua & Rohit Thakkar

Written and directed by: Akshat Varma

Music: Sameer Uddin

Starring: Saif Ali Khan, Sobhita Dhulipala, Kunaal Roy Kapur, Isha Talwar, Amyra Dastur, Akshay Oberoi, Nary Singh, Shenaz Treasury, Vijay Raaz, Deepak Dobriyal, Neil Bhoopalam, Shivam Patil, Amanda Rosario. Asif Basra and others

MUMBAI—A patient is told that he is dying of cancer with barely months to live. This guy, Rileen (Saif Ali Khan), in one night, decides to drink, smoke, take drugs and see a naked woman – he has had a boringly righteous life, see? AND is angry that he still has got cancer!

So when Rileen (what a name!) takes off with his younger brother Angad (Akshay Oberoi), who is going to get married to his cutie-pie love Neha (Amyra Dastur), to get the latter’s haircut done on a rainy night, he witnesses dolphins and sundry other hallucinations on the road, but is still driving – properly.

A hirsute streetwalker Sheila (Nary Singh) and he have a ball, at the expense of a constable with a bulging paunch. Back home, no one questions why he is looking so weird or stoned, and he interests a pretty damsel Rakhi (Isha Talwar), who refuses to believe that he is dying and almost falls for him.

His brother, meanwhile, tries to have a sexual fling with his ex, Selina (Amanda Rosario) in a hotel suite (on the way to the haircutter!) but is left frustrated when he injures himself and her man calls and says he is on his way.

Then there is this pair of always-driving-in-the-rain gangsters Amjad (Vijay Raaz) and Waris (Deepak Dobriyal) who dream of riches and conning their boss Raza (Asif Basra) of the loot they are carrying for him. Waris soon kills Amjad and tries to fool his boss, but cannot.

The third story has Zubin (Kunaal Roy Kapur) and Tara (Sobhita Dhulipala) who are parting since Tara has to go abroad. On the way, they attend a party that faces a raid. They manage to escape but crash into a bike that breaks a signal. Without waiting to see what happened to the two riders, they run away. Tara collects her luggage, and Zubin drops her to the airport. But she cannot face her conscience and heads for the police station, only to be told that she can go abroad as the guys killed were most wanted criminals!

When multiple stories are told in one film, they need some interesting meeting-point. Not only is that absent, but each story drags. There is a tenuous link in the story of the last couple and the criminals (they have shot dead Rana’s early mentor Ustad, played by Neil Bhoopalam, and Waris and Amjad have seen the two bikers escape. Waris later encounters Zubin and Tara, and almost immediately gets a bullet fired in the air at Rineel’s house – logically the most absurd sequence for a so-called slice-of-life dark comedy.

Well, if audiences were expecting something like “Delhi Belly” here, suffice to say that Varma as a second-time writer and as a first-time director fails miserably. He seems to be on some weird trip instead of under the control of Aamir Khan, who produced that film, and instead of making a film for Hindi audiences. He explores the extremes of Mumbai – the rich and the poor, without even getting into the middle-class, which could have made it interesting if told well.

The amoral/immoral angle is okay – life does not have to be rendered clean and antiseptic in the movies, especially if the outcome is not antisocial, but a film certainly demands good storytelling and a connect with human nature. The film never touches us through its characters who all seem to be essentially confused weaklings. Varma does not bother to have subtitles for its sizable chunk of English lines, showing less about who it wants as its target audience and more about the filmmakers’ ignorance of ground realities in Hindi cinema.

There is little to look admirably at – some shots of Mumbai at night (Himman Dhamija) have an allure, but the rest of the technical side is humdrum. The songs, as in most movies off-late, are not even worth a discussion, and the background score (both are by Sameer Uddin) is adequate in most sequences.

Safi Ali Khan is sincere, yet routine. Isha Talwar shows a lot of promise. From the rest, the gangsters are reliably predictable. Nary Singh as Sheila and Sobhita as Tara are efficient.

Some points in the script see the dialogues fly high, like the pre-meeting of spouses Angad and Neha when he tries to confess to her, or in the sequences at Rineel’s home during the pre-marriage festivities. But otherwise, the film has less than ten percent of the hilarious quotient of the writer’s past work.

In fact, when the film ends abruptly, we almost feel that the writing and production team has suddenly decided to finish it all, as if to say, “Enough is enough! Let’s get done with it!”

But by then, the audience is already tortured, its patience worn thinner than the plot!

Rating: *1/2

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