Whodunits and suspense sagas sound interesting on paper, but not every film-maker can translate them with panache on celluloid. The year 2007 has witnessed a number of suspense thrillers hit the Indian screen, like RED - THE DARK SIDE, RAQEEB, THE TRAIN, NAQAAB, AGGAR and MANORAMA SIX FEET UNDER, but a majority of them sank faster than Titanic because the suspense in the end didn't measure up to the expectations.
JOHNNY GADDAAR, directed by Sriram Raghavan, belongs to a different variety of thrillers altogether. In JOHNNY GADDAAR, the viewer knows, at the very outset, who the actual gaddaar is, but his partners-in-crime don't. The gaddaar accidentally ends up eliminating every one in his gang. Just when you think that the gaddaar has removed the obstacles from his path, a gun shot is fired again… there's yet another twist in the tale. Sriram Raghavan compels viewers to use their mind as layer after layer is peeled off, like the late Vijay Anand pulled it off with élan in TEESRI MANZIL and more particularly, in JEWEL THIEF.
JOHNNY GADDAAR borrows from James Hadley Chase novels and a vital scene from the yesteryear Big B - Navin Nischol starrer PARWANA [the film-maker doesn't conceal his inspirations]. Well crafted with some great moments, JOHNNY GADDAAR is not just style, but substance as well.
With EK HASINA THI, his directorial debut, Raghavan proved that he's a remarkable storyteller. With JOHNNY GADDAAR, there's no stopping this adroit storyteller. Without a shred of doubt, JOHNNY GADDAAR is one of the finest thrillers to hit the marquee in 2007. We've had enough of laughs, it's time to have a chill down your spine.
The story starts with one of the gang members Seshadri [Dharmendra] getting an offer to make a fortune in four days. All the gang members [they're five in all] are up for it as this is the deal that will catapult them into the big league.
The youngest member of the gang Vikram [Neil Nitin Mukesh] plans to disappear to some unknown city and start his own life with his love Mini [Rimi Sen], when a devilish thought crosses his mind. What if he grabs the entire jackpot? Vikram decides to double cross his partners.
Come to think of it, JOHNNY GADDAAR is not one of those desi thrillers film-makers have visited time and again. The beauty lies in the fact that no one can predict what's in store next. Just when you think that the film would head left, it goes right, catching you completely unawares. And Raghavan continues to shock and startle you till the last frame.
The casting adds to the experience. Although JOHNNY GADDAAR revolves around five men and one woman, a few more characters are injected in the narrative, but not once do the goings-on get confusing. Under normal circumstances, the inclusion of characters only results in things getting messier and chaotic. Not here!
One would be doing gross injustice if one were to pinpoint any particular sequence that leaves an impact in this 16 reeler, but, yes, every murder that takes place remains etched in your memory even after the show has concluded. Any roadblocks? Just one! The second half could've been shorter. Also, the slow pacing acts as a deterrent.
JOHNNY GADDAAR is a songless film [except for one song in the pre-climax, but the story only moves forward in this track] and that works to the advantage. There're no distractions, no deviations, no sub-plots that get jarring… thankfully. Yet, Raghavan should've used the popular track 'Doobja Mere Pyaar Mein' [filmed on music composers Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy and Hard Kaur] in the end credits. Cinematography is superb. The screenplay and dialogues are both flawless.
Now to the performances! Neil Nitin Mukesh is a discovery in the true sense. Sure, he resembles Hrithik Roshan in looks, but he's a complete natural when it comes to acting. Raghavan does take a big risk by placing the story on his shoulders, but the youngster carries off the part with dexterity. There's just one word to describe his performance -- superb!
Dharmendra is in top form. METRO, APNE and now JOHNNY GADDAAR, 2007 is yet another turning point in his career. Vinay Pathak continues to cement his status with every release. He's excellent. Zakir Hussain is fantastic. It's yet another superior performance from this supremely talented actor. Daya Shetty [who's thrown off the train] does well.
Rimi Sen springs a pleasant surprise. She enacts a complex role with complete understanding. Ashwini Kalsekar [Vinay Pathak's wife] is exceptional. What a tremendous actress! Govind Namdeo is first-rate. Rasika Joshi [Daya Shetty's mother] is remarkable.
On the whole, JOHNNY GADDAAR is a taut thriller that has the germs to catch up with the audience. At the box-office, its business at multiplexes will be the best. Lack of a major opposition coupled with an additional holiday on Tuesday [October 2 - Gandhi Jayanti] would prove to be a bonus!