"Every film has a beginning, middle, and end, but not necessarily in that order." - Jean Luc Goddard
Read once again the writer’s name above. Trust me, I didn’t choose it that way. Guess some things are just meant to be.
GN: “Who is your favorite actor?”
NM: “Amitabh Bachchan”
GN: “So have you seen all his movies?”
NM: “Yeah Zanjeer, Deewaar, Sholay, Satte pe satta…”
If your answer is also negative to the above question, my suggestion is before entering the theatre to immerse yourself in this hell – of – a – ride, go watch Parwana. You might just figure out the goings on a little earlier than most.
The 1970’s were one of the best decades for Indian cinema (No, it wasn’t known as Bollywood then). Many people who grew up in that era have glorious memories of some of the best scripts ever seen on Indian screens. Now, it’s one thing to enjoy the movies while in the theatre and move on with life once out of it - our normal movie going audience. But there are people who live out the memories of those visuals for years, if not the whole of their lives. Sriram Raghavan happens to be one of that breed. His passion for the cinema of his growing up years is very much on the view while one is watching Johnny Gaddaar.
The tributes are so heart felt that he didn’t even feel the need to hide the source of inspiration like most of the other filmmakers. Be it the receptionist of the hotel watching Dev Anand’s Johnny Mera Naam, full screen view of Amitabh’s Parwana (that though is crucial to the story) or the easily missed Neil Mukesh’s rather bad imitation of Sanjeev Kumar, the tributes are just tough to miss. Add to that the James Hadley Chase novels that are on view so often and you start thinking is there anything novel or creative in this movie?
Make no mistakes; JG is one of the best thrill rides you would have ever made with Hindi movies. It’s not one of those suspense thrillers where you keep trying to figure out the killer. Here you know from the start, and some intelligent ones even before that, of who is going to be the “Gaddaar” here. But the flow of the movie is such that the goings on are almost always fresh and thrilling. The twists and turns are numerous and they keep the viewer well engrossed.
First half is plain brilliant. The murder sequences almost without fail, are brilliantly shot, especially the train sequence. Emotional appeal is also well in place with the characters of Dharmendra and Vinay’s wife. The negatives are mostly in the second half. The film loses its most attractive feature in this half – its pace. There still are enough scenes though in this half those hold your attention.
Neil Mukesh makes a confident and stylish debut. Though his character doesn’t demand too much histrionics and acting skills, but that very essence of underplaying the emotions works so well in favor of the actor. Add to that an amazing screen presence, especially in the face of some of the most brilliant acting talent, and you already get the feelers that his singing family lost out one of their own to the acting world. There is an absolutely brilliant balance between guilt and naughtiness in the character that gives you goose bumps. Rimi has so little to do in the movie and she hams her way through it. Dharam paaji is really making a comeback akin to AB and seems to be making some wise choices now. After METRO and APNE, this one completes a hat – trick of decent performances that are in sync with his age unlike some of the others of his generation. Vinay Pathak is trustworthy as usual. Leaving his well practiced comic timing behind; he tries to portray a character here that probably is the most genuine one in the whole group. Zakir Hussein is his usual dependable self. And the CID gang enacts their part well enough too, though Ashwini Kalsekar [Vinay Pathak's wife] could have been a little less loud.
Screenplay is effective, though as mentioned above, not all scenes are happening one after the other. You come back at the end from where you started. Though it’s not as confusing as it sounds and it’s a tactic that is being used a lot nowadays. Dialogues are apt most of the time. Cinematography, especially the night lighting and the use of dark colors add to the feel of the movie as a taut thriller. Music doesn’t have much role to play here, since none of the songs are picturised in the movie completely, only tiny bits here and there and they don’t give away much. One heartfelt request though – Please listen to the soundtrack. It’s one of the most different and rocking sounds of the year. Title track is easily the best of the lot.
Sriram Raghavan, as a director, who already has the well-appreciated EK HASINA THI to his name, is a guy who definitely knows his craft. And even more importantly, he has his heart in the right place and his passions intact.
Overall, Johnny Gaddaar is a very nicely made and well-intentioned movie. If you love your thrills and respect your brains, do give it a try. You sure won’t regret it. Having said that, there were a handful of people with me in the first show of its screening. That’s very tough to accept. Hope with word of the mouth, the collections pick up. Such genuine efforts need to be applauded or we might always be stuck with those sugar coated romance and family dramas and we would have only ourselves to blame. GO WATCH IT.