By Subhash K. Jha
Film: "Bhindi Baazaar Inc"; Director: Ankush Bhatt; Cast: Pavan Malhotra, Kay Kay Menon, Prashant Narayanan, Gautam Sharma and Deepti Naval; Rating: ***
You can take the gangster out of Mumbai, but you really can't take Mumbai out of the gangster genre of cinema. How many films have we seen where young people from the seamier side of Mumbai's notorious underbelly get into the world of crime and other furtive pleasures?
Let's not make a list of the underworld films, recent and remote which "Bhindi Baazaar Inc" echoes. Suffice to say this one too shakes you, sometimes to the core. It is gritty edgy tactile and earthy, filled with actors who look unwashed, unshaven brazen and brash enough to pass off as real gangsters on Mumbai's crowded roads.
Gun's the word. The only language that these people speak is the language of violence. As one of the semi-pivotal characters with bruises and fractures says: "What difference does it make whether it's the public, police or colleagues? I am used to the thrashing." That sense of expected violence at the pit of the stomach runs through the film's underbelly.
"Bhindi Baazaar Inc" serenades a genre which has been done to brutal death in Bollywood. Sex here is for barter and worse. Take it or leave it. In an episode echoing Vishal Bhardwaj's "Maqbool" with vigorous temerity, the ganglord's recruit kills his own mentor and sleeps with the woman that the mentor was lusting after.
Recall the Pankaj Kapoor-Tabu-Irrfan Khan axis in "Maqbool". Shakespeare meets Ram Gopal Varma. You'd immediately see where Ghalib Asab Bopali's 'scream' play in "Bhindi Baazaar" is coming from. Replete with rugged references to the tradition of Mumbai cinema's enduring allegiance to gangsterism, the film moves at an even trot.
Bolstered by hard-hitting images of violence, the narration warms up menacingly towards a heated climax. Bhatt seeks inspiration from the great raconteurs of gangsterism Ram Gopal Varma, for starters.
It isn't originality that gives this work its bearings and resonances. It's the way the familiar congregations of the scruffy and the savage people are packaged and projected that keeps us riveted.
At the helm of the pulsating proceedings are the two pickpocket friends. Prashant Narayanan (excellent) and newcomer Gautam Sharma (confident) remind us of Dev Patel and Ankur Vikal in Danny Boyle's "Slumdog Millionaire" and Sharman Joshi and Farukh Kabir in "Allah Ka Banday".
While resonantly echoing all these violent predecessors, "Bhindi Baazaar Inc" manages to stand on its own two feet.
Director Ankush Bhatt keeps the blood and fury rolling out in reams of ricocheting images denoting a life lived on the edge of self-destruction. The performances range from the grand (Pavan Malhotra) to the awkward (some of the female actors). The romantic and erotic sequences are clumsy, and some attempts to shock through dialogues and visuals are too blatant.
But the plot finally holds together. The blood-soaked streets, the mean circumstances and the meaner social outcasts all come together in a bracing bloodbath that could be accused of being jaded in theme but not lacking in vitality and vigour.