There is a wonderful scene in the film when a porn film is being shot on a ludicrous set in a seedy hotel. Everything is going as smooth as it probably can, until the ‘actress’ feels shy to strip. The director, already working under a deadline, gets frustrated and slaps the actress and blames it the presence of her husband on the set. On a cue, the crew starts thrashing him.
It is moments like these that stand out in an otherwise frustrating film and give it some footing. The plot is about the relationship between 2 brothers making movies in the 1980s Indian C-grade porn world. The elder brother produces the movies; the younger one provides the girl. But what separates them is while the elder one is a part and is actually ambitious about his job, the younger one looks on like a misfit. Things are still fairly smooth until a starlet in distress walks into their lives and turns their already upside down world off the tracks.
As soon as I came out of the hall, I was trying to remember what I had seen. As soon as I recalled a scene, I couldn’t recall anything else about that moment. And while this gives it a rather dream like quality in hindsight, it makes the film watching experience much less enjoyable than it ideally should have. Another issue with the movie is the lingering shot, which rather than having the effect of sexy lingerie which entices you turns you off like an ugly pair of bra-panties, so abundantly displayed in the movie. So while the damsel ignores the younger brother so besotted by her and gets into a lift, a board on the door loudly shouts “Thanks for closing the door” and stays on it for 5 seconds longer than required to drive the point home. Such moments really piss you off after a certain point. The movie’s subject isn’t exactly populist, and if it is in fact made for a niche audience, it can take the privilege of treating of audiences with respect. We got it! Move on!
What it does achieve brilliantly is the milieu of the times. There is so much stuff from the 90s that you would have probably felt nostalgic in a slightly warmer movie. It adds an extra dimension of a prolonged heart break to the affairs. Also, the camera work puts us right into the 90s with its VCR reel-feel and really makes us feel a part of those times.
What really f*cks up the movie though is the sound mix, which renders half the dialogues inaudible. I don’t know if it was intentional or not, but both ways it hampers the experience. Plus the movie never goes anywhere, happy to be more of a documentary than a drama.
At the end of the day, what saves it from going to the gutters it the solid acting arsenal. Nawazuddin Siddiqui shot this movie in a pre-Wasseypur universe, and it makes for a happy coincidence. His performance is more vulnerable than anything I have seen recently. Plus Niharika Singh makes a gracious, conniving debut as the starlet. But the person who really impresses is Anil George as the elder brother, who also makes his debut here. He doesn’t take a false step, and remains a lecherous animal throughout. All the bit players are great too.
A bit more meat and movie would have been great. But it is watchable still. I’ll say go for it, but don’t expect a masterpiece like Udaan or LSD, it is more in the league of That Girl in Yellow Boots probably.