Friday, February 4, 2011

Yeh Saali Zindagi

Stars: Irrfan Khan, Chitrangada Singh, Arunoday Singh, Yashpal Sharma, Aditi Rao Hydari
Director: Sudhir Mishra
Showing at: Citypride, E-Square, Inox
Stars: ***

The thing with certain filmmakers is that the themes they tackle in their most influential works tend to find a way into their subsequent films. In Sudhir Mishra's case, Hazaaron Khwaishein Aisi, a period movie set in the 70s, can easily be counted as a modern-day masterpiece. Not surprisingly then, when Mishra tries to portray love in the seedy and labyrinthine universe of assorted thugs, corrupt police officers and shady businessmen in Yeh Saali Zindagi, you see a distinct trace of the romantic themes he dealt with in his earlier celebrated film.
Mishra, being the unconventional man that he is, joyously destroys chiches with his by-now-familiar tone of subversion and irreverence. However, this brash and erratic style of filming is something one has come to associate with new-age directors, almost to the point of repetition. Hence one looks for more than mere shock value. Mishra’s film is promising, but tends to rely too much on the sensational — what with it making news for having its actors thrash Mallika Sherawat’s 22 kisses record.

Yeh the title suggests, is full of colourful cuss words, most of it meant to scanadalise and titilate. If it stays engaging and amusing for major part of its two hour running time, it is largely because of the excellent actors on board, and Mishra gives his character wonderful touches. However, the central plot itself, has the Hazaaron... hangover, and in this case, is less satisfying to see on screen. There are also definite points where you feel somewhat exasperated with all the chaos and confusion happening in the film. Chitrangada's sketchy character contributes to that feeling as well.

As has become a trend with many small-budget black comedies and satires, the narrative moves back and forth, with many interesting characters being part of the mix. When the action starts, you see a despondent Arun, a fixer (Irrfan Khan) who is madly in love with Priti (Chirangada Singh). But she falls for another guy (Vipul Gupta). Meanwhile, Kuldeep (Arunoday) is a thug trying to begin on a clean slate, and appease his upset wife (Aditi Rao Hydari). But he's willing to take up one final assignment, a high profile kidnapping case, which involves getting his boss (Yashpal Sharma) released from jail, that also promises some moolah.

Kuldeep and his gang are supposed to kidnap the CM's daughter and his proposed son-in-law (Vipul), the same guy who Chitrangada is seeing. The gang makes a mistake and kidnaps Chitrangada instead. This proves frustrating for the players, because the CM's daughter has now given up on her fiance and the minister won't make any concessions. Irrfan goes to all kind of lengths for his lady love, and her lover! Much like Hazaaron...Irrfan's character is inspired from Shiney Ahuja's masterful role as a fixer, and his attempt to do the unthinkable for the girl he loves, is also taken from there. In the same way, Chitrangada's character, who loves one man sincerely, but will take favours from another, was better written in Hazaaron.
There are individual scenes that are extremely well done, but the central plot involving Chitrangada-Irrfan-Vipul is somewhat unconvincing. One can't quite see why Chirangada ditches Irrfan in the beginning, and some montages trying to explain this doesn't make anything clear. But Irrfan, the actor, is flawless and delivers yet another solid performance. Ditto with Yashpal Sharma, who is terrific. Arunoday's act is fresh. Chitrangada is decent, though her expressions keep alternating between a pouty smile and a harried frown.

Mishra, with his unique sensibility and maturity, is always someone to watch out for, and though Yeh Saali Zindagi isn't anything out of the world, and certainly this could have been a much better film, it still has many strengths to recommend itself.