I am an unabashed fan of E. Niwas's work. Hence the impatience to see "MNIAG". This time however, the director of films like "Shool" and "Love Ke Liye Kuch Bhi Karega" doesn't come through. MNIAG is a film with lackluster screenplay, lackadaisical gait, and a lame hero to boot.
The film's story is a throwback to the 80s. Remember the kindly character of Father Braganza, so plentiful in films of that decade? We have one in this film too. Played by Mithun, this kind priest not only listens to confessions, but is also well-versed in the martial arts, something we are privy to only towards the end of the film.
As I said, the 80s rule. Thus we have more characters of Goan lineage; there is the hero himself of course, an orphan taken in by mobster Sikander (Malhotra), and Anthony’s friend Mike, a petty thief. Anthony works as a waiter, but dreams of becoming a hero. His big break comes when he auditions for, and gets the hero's role in a film directed by an up-and-coming director (Dubey), and falls in love with the assistant director (Amrita). His career poised for take-off, Anthony witnesses Sikander and his friends disposing off a corpse, and is plagued by guilt to do the right thing and report the murder.
MNIAG follows the well-worn path; this is a jaded, jaded story, and the sheen has worn off from overuse. Twenty years back I might have been satisfied with a film where the "good" and "bad" camps were well-defined and there weren’t any shades of grey. However, today, with directors pushing the envelope, borrowing from the past is a big no-no. Our sensibilities have changed, and subtlety, especially in the crime genre, is the name of the game.
And hard as it may be to believe, this is not the biggest flaw in the film. That, is it's indecisiveness. The film starts off with our introduction to Anthony and the cast of characters around him, his guardian Sikander, Sikander's pals (Tiwari, Pandey) and boss (Kher), Anthony's friend Mike, his lady-love (Amrita), and the good priest Father Briganza, who's taught Anthony everything he knows about morality. The introduction goes on mighty long, and just as I'm wondering if this is some one's idea of a sob-story, the film changes tracks to traipse into romance-land.
Intermittently we also get a peek into Sikander's world, with the undercurrents of jealousy and spite. I was beginning to get hopeful, because Kher's character, Murtuza showed promise, and I was wondering if this might turn into a hard-hitting mafia-movie after all. Alas, it didn't. Thus romance and venality take a back-seat to pay homage to good old morality.
If you've managed to stomach all that, you get to the old-fashioned climax. There are no surprises here; the film toddles on, on it’s predictable path. Not only does MNIAG have a shaky script, it also has stilted dialogues, and bad characterization. The characters, such as they are, offer up no redeeming qualities. The hero is a flighty young man, who appears to have goals; however we never actually get to “see” or “feel” what he thinks; all we are left to surmise with are his superficial actions. The film fails to develop a sense of seriousness, and doesn’t come across as a full-time gag either. It totters between the two, to disastrous effect.
I attribute a lot of the failure to lead actor Nikhil’s inability to emote. Amrita Rao has an inconsequential role, for which she does fine. Jawed Sheikh who plays the policeman out to nail Sikander, comes across believably, but it’s a wasted effort, for his character has not much influence. Real actors like Kher and Malhotra are wasted portraying characters which play second fiddle to an unimaginative story-line. The music is ho-hum, save one song.
I think I see the director's intention behind this film - to pour into this one film equally balanced elements of 'Bollywoodian' entertainment. Unfortunately, none of these genres are handled well, or contribute to the film as a whole. MNIAG is very much like the first two houses that the Three Little Pigs built. All one has to do, is to huff and to puff, and it all falls down.