Cast: Rani Mukerji, Randeep Hooda, Saqeeb Salim, Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Vineet Singh
Direction: Karan Johar, Dibakar Bannerjee, Zoya Akhtar, Anurag Kashyap
‘Bombay Talkies’ boasts of superb craft; crisp writing, skillful direction and brilliant performances. Four directors, four stories, one film; is there a common thread? Maybe. One of the characters in each of these stories is extremely influenced by some aspect of Bollywood – old Hindi film songs (the street child who is a gifted singer), acting (a talented theatre actor who never really pursued his dream), dancing (a small boy aspires to become a dancer like Sheila) and stardom (Vijay who comes all the way from Allahabad to meet Amitabh Bachchan). For all of us who are aware of these directors’ previous works, each of them has his or her own USP and they play to their strengths.
It’s delightful to see Karan Johar recognize that his core strength is relationships and not mush. KJo steps away from his usually voluptuous colours and glossy sets to tell a very real story about a married couple which stumbles upon the realization that they have actually been living a lie. Each actor Rani Mukerji, Randeep Hooda and Saqib Saleem essay understated performances with flair and sincerity. Randeep’s arrogance conceals a raw vulnerability while Saqib’s brash and presumptuous personality has a certain inherent charm. Rani is subtle and effective. For once it’s admirable how Karan Johar deftly handles his gay characters, successfully steering clear of a stereotypical portrayal.
Dibakar Bannerjee’s story about a failed actor who gets a chance opportunity to do a bit role in a Bollywood film is a captivating tale. Nawazuddin Siddiqui’s sheer brilliance in the hands of an adept director wipes out disappointing memories of his last film (Aatma). Two remarkable scenes that stand out; first, where Nawaz practices Big B’s famous dialogues before he realizes that his little role hardly has any lines to mouth and second, the last scene where he doesn’t have a single dialogue but his histrionics speak louder than any other line in the whole film. Siddiqui’s face conveys myriad emotions as he runs home to his daughter after his performance.
Zoya Akhtar’s little child star is pushed by his ambitious father to learn football because that’s what boys should be doing. Our 12-year-old however aspires to become a dancer like Sheila (Katrina Kaif in ‘Tees Maar Khan). It’s a heartwarming story as an indulgent elder sister understands her kid brother’s dreams and they are oblivious of the implications that this unusual choice of vocation might have.
Anurag Kashyap’s protagonist travels all the way from Allahabad to meet Amitabh Bachchan in Mumbai because his ailing father believes that will save his life. Vineet Singh is spot on as the fan desperate for a glimpse of the superstar. He gets even the little nuances right like, calling Big B, “Amita Bachchan” instead of “Amitabh Bachchan”. Kashyap’s story is an honest tribute to the Shahenshah of Bollywood.
‘Bombay Talkies’ is an engaging watch. But you know it would have been interesting to see more such anthologies that are an ode to the 100 years of Hindi cinema, especially one where we have filmmakers with completely different sensibilities come together. Wouldn’t it be great if we could sample a film that had a typical Bollywood potpourri by Farah Khan, a dose of reality by Sudhir Mishra, a shot of horror by RGV (Ram Gopal Verma) and a dash of romance by Imtiaz Ali? Also, the film is a must watch but the song at the end is super boring.
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