By Subhash K. Jha, Bollywood Hungama News Network
It is rare for a film based on a gruesome traumatic real-life tragedy to be made into a film where every character and almost every episode and moment is etched out with unwavering care sensitivity and resonance.
Mumbai Meri Jaan is that rare gem of a film that makes your heart bleed, your eyes cry and your spirits soar in hope for a better tomorrow. Even as it makes your heart sink as fictional characters emerge from the horrific rubble of the train blasts that shook Mumbai on July 11, 2005, the reverberant drama brings to us moments that redeem the rapidly -disintegrating status of our society.
Mumbai Meri Jaan is unarguably the best-written film of this year. All the principal characters are designed to represent real life and yet convey significances that take them beyond sensationalistic newspaper headlines.
Whether we live in Mumbai or not, each one of us is bound to find a bit of ourselves in one or the other of the protagonists. There's Soha Ali Khan giving a career-defining performance as a hard-nosed television journalist who finds herself on the other side of the 'offence' when her boyfriend goes missing after the blast. This is a terrific terrifying and intimate study of irony and ambition, done in striking strokes of black and 'fright'. Or take the Madhavan track. He's white-collar idealist who travels by train and almost gets killed in the blasts for his democratic principles. Madhavan brings a searching agony to his eyes, as suspicion and terror take hold of his heart creating situations in the script that are poignant and funny.
Funniest in its savage cruelty is the jobless loiterer Kay Kay Menon's suspicious trailing of a Muslim youth to a mosque…only to discover that the guy was is to meet his girlfriend. Paresh Rawal (does he ever stop being brilliant?) as the jaded cop in conversation with the young spirited colleague(Vijay Mourya) would remind you of Nana Patekar and Nakul Vaid in Ab Tak Chappan.
Hold that thought…There's a treasury of thought provoking challenging and deeply moving moments in Mumbai Meri Jaan to remind us how engaging cinema can be without sacrificing the message.
My favourite moment besides Soha's obviously impressive breakdown sequence is the one where the Muslim phobic Kay Kay Menon's character accosts a poor old Muslim bread seller on the night after the blast.
Even as such sequences make us cringe we applaud the power of cinema to convey home truths in caustic and comic coatings. With exceptional candour and emotion, writer Yogesh Vinayak Joshi weaves in and out of the lives of the irreparably wounded characters (and we aren't talking physical damage). Whether it's the look of bewilderment pain and shock in Madhavan's eyes as he sees his limbless friend in hospital after the blasts, or Irrfan's look of triumph after he creates a false bomb scare in a shopping mall where he was insulted, Mumbai Meri Jaan discovers and celebrates the deep cleft between the haves and the have-nots.
Each of the 5 principal performances are outstanding in their sensitivity and warmth. And it would be criminal to single any of them out. Seldom have we seen such a showcase of brilliant writing, directing, acting and communicating the power of cinema in all its glory.