Director: Habib Faisal
Cast: Aadar Jain, Anya Singh, Mikhail Yawalkar, Sachin Pilgaonkar, Ram Kapoor
I’ve watched a lot of sub-par YRF productions over the years, but Qaidi Band takes the modak-shaped cake. It looks like the illegitimate millennial-mocking offspring conceived out of an amorous train-toilet union between a depressed Rock On!! and a neurotic (insert random prison break drama). It bears all the authenticity of One Direction acclimatizing to Tihar Jail, and is as incredulously unnecessary and superficial as Paris Hilton experiencing the tough life of a prisoner for another cash-grabbing reality show.
There is literally no excuse for such an outdated, vain, deluded and senile film to exist on this planet in 2017. It might be intended as a “spirited” launch pad for two young newcomers, but the only thing it really launches is the pit at the bottom of my stomach straight out through my mouth. And I promise this image is still far more appetizing than writer-director Habib Faisal’s latest monstrosity.
Except perhaps the villain (Sachin Pilgaonkar, as the evil jailer), everyone else seems to be part of some elaborate modern-day parody of Phir Bhi Dil Hai Hindustani. As a result, Qaidi Band’s consistent commitment to awfulness might have claimed another victim in its messy slipstream.
Think about it: A frustrated group of innocent under-trials form a band and use their music as a way to vitalize the country and achieve freedom. If there was ever a story that seamlessly lent itself to the heightened Bollywood dichotomy of song and drama, this was it. I mean who doesn’t want to see a harmless preppie rendition of sarkaari cops as bad guys and sad-eyed convicts as noble beings again? If Sanju (Aadar Jain) and Bindu (Anya Singh), along with a carefully handpicked group of ethnically diverse fugitives, can expose the nation’s feeble Justice and Law system with all the conviction of Malabar Hill students tattling to their principals, what’s not to like? Never mind that all of them deserve to be behind bars for participating in a recklessly researched tale like this. I could swear there were a Belarusian girl and a Manipuri lady in the band who disappeared midway through the film. Could each frame not handle so much culture?
The problem, as always, is the studio’s stubborn “template” philosophy. At times, I wonder if Aditya Chopra makes it mandatory for all his employees and writers to be MBA graduates – so that they can approach every film as a dry marketing project and design stories instead of telling them. Their concept of “youth” is, therefore, more of a formal formulaic dossier than a feeling – like a flashy PowerPoint presentation prepared by a bunch of liberal uncles in suits. Their obsession with appealing to today’s urban youngsters has now assumed the sterile aura of an excitable boardroom meeting. One can almost sense terms like “sample sizes,” “customer satisfaction” and “product integration” thrown around during the writing process.
There’s such an elaborate plasticity to even the most basic emotions that it’s hard not to imagine how detached from ground realities these creators are. Amateur band competitions with a top prize of INR 50 lakhs? In what alternate universe? Bollywood, of course. Under-trials suddenly sounding like an international Sufi band (Sainanis, it seems) once they are given branded equipment? YRF’s Bollywood, of course.
Filth is privatized – rats are friends; toilets have blinking tube lights; supporting characters are dark-skinned. Rebellion is corporatized – every song must sound like a thinly veiled right-wing anthem made love to a rejected Amit Trivedi rock ballad (“I Am India,” “Hulchul,” Junooni”); media must cheer; commoners must cheer; electric guitars must scream; women must speak like rehashed “Pareshaan” background singers. Pain is accessorized – each of the prisoners’ families must look like they’re listening to KL Saigal’s voice; lyrics must equate panipuri to agony; brutality must occur in aesthetically gritty and colour-graded lockups.
Except perhaps the villain (Sachin Pilgaonkar, as the evil jailer), everyone else seems to be part of some elaborate modern-day parody of Phir Bhi Dil Hai Hindustani. As a result, Qaidi Band’s consistent commitment to awfulness might have claimed another victim in its messy slipstream. I, for one, will be very nervous when Lucknow Central – the Farhan Akhtar-starrer with an similar plot – comes out next month. For no fault of its own, it will have to accommodate a sea of scarred critics determined to hate on its theme. Either that, or the bar has been set so low that all Akhtar and co. need to do is show up. Comparative analysis and excel sheets will take care of the rest.