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I saw Kaminey last night. And it didn’t appeal to me. And no, it wasn’t the burden of expectation because these days I leave all that behind. Whenever I find everyone raving about a film or a book, I immediately become cautious. So, I went in fully expecting to not like it. However, it wasn’t so much that I didn’t like it. It was more like I found it boring.

To begin with, the theme was boring. I find all gangsta movies boring, unless of course they’re Tarantino films. And in our case, with Ramu having ODed on them, I find I can without one more gangster film. The story is straight forward enough. It’s a classic story of identical twins – one good, one bad – and a mix-up. There it is. That’s the story.

Since the story is neo-noirish  (dealing with the corruption of the soul), predictably Vishal Bharadwaj’s treatment is the same – lots of dark shots, excessive use of the steadicam etc. The film is slow to build up. It takes up all of the first half (whatever happened to grip your audience in the first ten minutes?) and had me fidgeting within the first twenty minutes. While I understand the importance of a build-up, for me it was like get on with the story already. Why? I don’t know. I guess I didn’t find the characters funny, endearing or engaging.

For instance, I didn’t find the hotel scene at the beginning particularly cleverly written or shot. The characters of Francis and the two corrupt policemen were, well, yawn. In fact, most of what happens in that hotel is boring. What does Francis want, what does Tashi want, who are the twins, what do the policemen want…who cares?

At the outset it is clear that Bharadwaj’s inspiration is Tarantino. The story is straightforward enough but the telling lies in the treatment. It is all about random, ridiculous events altering the course of the story and allowing the underdog to emerge the victor. But while Tarantino’s random events are shock and awe (remember the scene in Pulp Fiction where John Travolta gets shot?) Bharadwaj’s are, what the F? The sidekick backing the car onto the senior policeman? Seriously?

And when Tarantino engages us in a long dialogue between John Travolta and Samuel L Jackson, we are riveted. The long, long, long pub scene in Death Proof has us hooked.  But when Bharadwaj does it (the whole episode with Bhope and his cronies in Charlie’s kholi), it induces fidgets. It does not flow naturally even though it does end with a vintage Tarantino shock incident. A case of trying too hard? Maybe.

The climax is long drawn out and seems to never end. The runtime is 150 minutes and I was fidgeting for 120 of them.

Having said that, I also say that Kaminey is the best Bollywood film I’ve seen this year. For one, at least the story is not the run-of-the-mill, boy-meets-girl romance or a ridiculous Neeraj Vora comedy. And two, the performances are good. The stars are playing the characters for the most part and not themselves, although Shahid does slip-up once in a while. Priyanka does a good job of the spunky Sweety.

Only Bharadwaj could have elicited such performances and goes to show that Vishal Bharadwaj is probably the best (commercial) director we have today. If only he could ignore that tag and not be compelled to ‘try too hard’ to live up to it.

And now I’m off on a holiday. See you guys on September 7.

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