Qaidi Band Review

"Qaidi Band" could have been an entertaining yet hard-hitting story that could have capitalized on the message that it set out to give. (photo provided)

Yash Raj Films presents “Qaidi Band”

Produced by: Aditya Chopra

Directed by: Habib Faisal

Written by: Habib Faisal & Sanjay Sharma

Music: Amit Trivedi

Starring: Aadar Jain, Anya Singh, Mikhail Yawalkar, Anna Ador, Sange, Peter Muxka Manuel, Prince Parvinder Singh, Sachin Pilgaonkar, Ram Kapoor & others

The first half seems (fairly) promising: we are introduced to a jail somewhere near Mumbai that has a humongous number of under-trials. Under-trials are prisoners who have yet to be tried in court and have the freedom to wear their clothes and a few more such ‘privileges’ that convicts (who have been tried and sentenced) lack.

The jail is going to turn a century old (on August 15!) and so jail superintendent Dhulia (Sachin Pilgaonkar) conceives a concert for the area’s politician and other guests – a performance by the under-trials. He auditions potential musicians, and seven of them are chosen – Sanju (Aadar Jain) and Bindu (Anya Singh) who are both terrific singers, Rufi (Mikhail Yawalkar, married, MBA with a kid), Ogu (Peter Muxka Manuel), Maskeen (Prince Parvinder Singh), a Russian girl Tatyana (Anna Ador) and the North-East Indian Cyndy (Sange). Dhulia names them the “Sainani” (militant) band on a whim.

The performance is a huge success, and with all the media coverage, Sainani becomes a rage among the youth. And so comes the film’s interval.

It is in the second half of this 1.56-hour film that the slide begins – immediately after the interval is over. The politician meets Dhulia and tells him that he wants Sainanis to make songs for him as elections are round the corner. He tells them to ensure that they all remain in jail for that period and all their court hearings that may set them free be canceled until then. Dhulia becomes autocratic when the five protest (Tatyana has been released by her embassy, and Cyndy transferred conveniently) and threatens them with inhuman consequences. He arranges for a famous rock band to collaborate with them.

The next song, with angst-ridden lyrics, is even more of a hit and the famous band tells them that there is a rock competition that, if they can win, can get them Rs. 5 million. Under the guise of getting good instruments for future better performances, the five hatch a plan to escape, win the competition and use the money to hire the city’s biggest lawyer Naveen Vachani to fight their case.

Of course, all of them have back stories that show that their crimes are either accidents or (as in Bindu’s case) a frame-up. The five do manage to escape, and what happens next until the happy ending is what the film is all about.

The first half of the film looks very real, gritty and intense. The premise of the movie is praiseworthy: a case for undertrials who languish needlessly in jail till their cases come up, thanks to a legal system with a severe drought of judges and too many pending cases due to a population explosion (as summed up by the sympathetic judge when he hears Bindu’s case). The horrifying truth is that many languish there for far longer periods than the highest sentence possible for the crime they have committed.

On the credit side, the jail sequences and the way both prisoners and cops make money look very true-to-life and gritty for those few minutes, along with the short but intense bout of violence, and it seems that we are in for a dark movie along the lines of the same director’s “Ishaqzaade.”

However, very soon, Faisal gets into the music-cum-romance zone, but in the second half the film becomes too cliché-ridden and simplistic – and the two qualities are connected. However, he gets the romance angle right, and the chemistry between the lead pair is excellently depicted despite the limited footage they get to express or demonstrate it.

And this is also because the lead pair is good at their jobs. Though he has an uncanny resemblance to cousin Ranbir Kapoor, Aadar Jain makes a decent debut as a far improved version of Armaan Jain, his sibling who was introduced in the atrocious “Lekar Hum Deewana Dil” some years ago. But it is Anya Singh who makes a real mark with her quicksilver expressions and confident demeanor. She is outstanding in the sequence where she defies Dhulia and again when she expresses her love for Sanju in public. A bright acting find, but someone who needs to develop into star material with better scripts and directors.

The remaining band members are very good, especially the black, Manuel, as Ogu and Mikhail Yawalkar, who is correctly reticent as Rufi. This being a YRF film, the obligatory Punjabi is there in the shape of Maskeen (Prince Parvinder Singh). What is interesting is that Ogu’s Hindi is far more comprehensible than the Punjabi monologues of Maskeen!

Sange, as the no-nonsense and angst-ridden Naga girl, and Anna Ador as the Russain girl make a mark in short roles. Anna’s frisky energy stands out when the band is brainstorming and rehearsing.

Sachin Pilgaonkar is a ludicrous miscast as Dhulia, often seeming like a reprise of Asrani’s “Angrez ke zamane ka jailor” act in “Sholay.” Ram Kapoor as the counsel Vachani is surprisingly good in his brief role and eschews his normal hamming and over-the-top brand of ‘soap’ acting.

Technically adept, the film has a mixed musical score (Amit Trivedi) and background music (Hitesh Modak – he has also composed the final concert’s half songs). The songs “I Am India” and “Udanchhoo” stand out.

On the whole, the film is just about passable. It could have been an entertaining yet hard-hitting story that could have capitalized on the message that it set out to give, rather than devote just six minutes or so after the climax for a very fanciful solution to a monumental but ignored the national problem.

Rating: **1/2

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