Who doesn't love a movie about bumbling crooks ? Especially if it is well-made, has what seems to be an original story-line and some actual humor, yeah? I do, for one. And 99 struck me as entertaining and a tad "Pulp Fiction" like, because it's got these bizarre characters with their fetishes and quirks. The more the merrier - that's the motto and it succeeds pretty well.
Sachin (Kunal Khemu, all cleaned up and clean-shaven), and Zaramud (Cyrus Broacha) are small-time conmen who (when they damage his car) must work for another crook called AGM, and end up helping him extract payments from recalcitrant loan-seekers. Thus they meet Rahul (Boman Irani), a salaried professional with the gambling itch. Now Rahul is into betting on cricket matches because he believes them to be fixed, and persuades the duo that he can predict and win. Now the threesome (actually foursome, if you include lady-love Pooja i.e. Soha Ali Khan) must outwit AGM, and other assorted villains to grab some moolah, bet with it and win. Sounds impossible? Think again!
Khemu who's always appeared in small-time, if entertaining films, delivers yet again. As Sachin, the almost yuppie, good-looking, well-built con-man with a heart of gold, he is quite likeable, and not hard to root for. Cyrus Broacha, MTV VJ, and the film's resident fat-man is another story. Broacha has trouble emoting, and his punch-lines are off. The only time I found him funny was when he walked straight into a pole and fell unconscious. He was funnier out!
Mahesh Manjrekar as AGM, the technologically challenged crime-boss is spot-on. And funny. There is one scene, where the Mumbaikar AGM comes to Delhi and gets into a taxi. The taxi doesn't have a meter, and AGM is quite perturbed. What kind of city is this?! The taxis don't have meters!" he remarks quite agitated. And while my recanting this anecdote might seem flat, please watch this in person for maximum effect.
Pretty Simone Singh plays Jahnavi, Irani's estranged wife (she's firmly ensconced at her mother's flat), and Soha Ali Khan plays a hotel manager and Sachin's paramour. While Khan's role is not as minor as Singh's they both don't sway the story either way. What does sway the film, and keep it afloat is it's subtle humor, much of it derived from the comparison between our two favorite cities - Bombay and Delhi (i.e. have you heard the gag about Pooja and Neha?). Nicely done, and with much affection.
This film is well-directed and spry-spirited. From an enthusiastic and often athletic cast (watch Khemu and Broacha run circles around their enemies) to glib, humorous dialogues, and meaty, well-defined characters, this one is an all-around winner.
Parents : This is a relatively clean film, and one which your kids (and you) might enjoy. Hard to believe, I know, but an actual family entertainer - Whoopee!