Director: Shagufta Rafique

Cast: Yash Dasgupta, Mimi Chakraborty

A top-angle shot of a yellow taxi cab entering the frame … a torrentially rainy night … you half-expect Tagore’s ‘Shagono gahono ratre’ to come on the soundtrack. It doesn’t. Instead, you have a man boarding the cab and, brandishing a revolver, going on a half-crazed rant about having just bumped off his wife and her lover, his friend. The taxi driver listens impassively, unmoved. Hmm … you tell yourself, interesting, reminded of a sequence from another film about a taxi driver and his encounter with a manic passenger raving about his plans to kill his wife.

Soon after this pre-credit prologue, you have the taxi driver moping about being lonesome in this big, bad city and wanting a companion and – lo and behold – proceeding to get married. Hmm … you tell yourself, interesting – a welcome departure from the song-and-dance-laden romantic wooing that’s the staple of most mainstream cinema in any language in India. The film’s not even fifteen minutes into its running time and … well that’s it.

You know a film is in trouble when it has offered all that is interesting about it in the first quarter of an hour and when even at a running time just short of two hours it feels interminable. If I had not been so engrossed in the prologue and the ‘novelty’ of the hero-heroine getting married in the first fifteen minutes, the seeds of the film’s failing would have been apparent in the passenger asking the cabbie whether his wielding a gun does not scare him. When the driver replies in the negative, the man offers, by way of pop psychology: “You must have lost something … something invaluable.”

The film is so liberally littered with laughable lines that beyond a point I stopped taking notes – but the one that takes the cake is Pari, narrating her tryst with drug addiction and prostitution, telling Aamir how she became Angel from Pari

Aamir (Yash) is a taxi driver who moonlights as a hit-man (or is it the other way round?) for Murad bhai (Shataf Figar), ‘supposedly’ a dreaded mafia figure who has his finger in every crime pie – contract killing, drugs, human trafficking. Unable to cope with loneliness and, as he reasons with his friend, buy anything for himself from the money he makes as a killer (his conscience is okay with killing people, though, I assume) he brings home Pari Bano (Mimi Chakraborty), an orphan like him, as his bride.

Despite their young dreams of a happy life together, you know it’s not going to be a ride into paradise given Aamir’s ‘part-time job’ and the company he keeps, and it’s not long before things start to unravel. Soon after discovering the truth about Aamir, Pari goes missing one night, leaving him distraught and heartbroken, till she turns up just as suddenly, emerging from a hotel, scantily clad and doped out of her senses.

In a film that’s almost a monument to artifice, plastic emotions and narrative on autopilot, Mimi has the film’s two true moments in a thankless role

If there was any way this disaster could have been salvaged, three fatal failures prove the film’s undoing. One: its leading man. I have not watched Yash in a film before, so I can only hope this is an aberration – he is so woefully out of his depth and thoroughly incapable of pulling this character off. Two, Shataf Figar as the underworld don. I have used the word ‘supposedly’ in the paragraph above thoughtfully. At no point in the film does he convey a trace of menace. A good, strong villain – even a campy one – can enliven the most banal of situations, but what we have here is a badly acted caricature. Three, the unbelievably poor and stilted writing, bordering on the juvenile. The film is so liberally littered with laughable lines that beyond a point I stopped taking notes – but the one that takes the cake is Pari, narrating her tryst with drug addiction and prostitution, telling Aamir how she became Angel from Pari!

The one actor who could have made a difference given her star wattage, Mimi, is given such short shrift that I came away with the feeling that even Shataf Figar has more screen time than she does. In a film that’s almost a monument to artifice, plastic emotions and narrative on autopilot, Mimi has the film’s two true moments in a thankless role.

This film could have taken so many roads. It could have been the story of a criminal dealing with guilt and finding a shot at redemption; it could have been the story of two lonely people finding love and each other against a violent backdrop; it could have been about a woman’s descent into hell and her journey back; it could have been a slam-bang actioner. But in the hands of Shagufta Rafique – known in Bollywood for her work as a writer in Vishesh Films’ JismMurderRaaz franchises – the film’s title, meaning ‘the mind/heart does not know’, assumes a literal significance.

Rating:   star
Total
17
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