Nice film, which could have been good…

Soundtrack; Pic courtesy: SAREGAMA

First time director, Neerav Ghosh’s Soundtrack is an interesting film… it’s not technically perfect or impactful cinema that makes you think; it’s simply an interesting story told with above average performances. And these days in Bollywood, that’s good enough considering the trash that makes it to the big screen. I am not saying that we promote mediocrity but it’s good that certain filmmakers are experimenting with different stories, formats and genres. Soundtrack is one such film – it has a fresh story (for Bollywood), inspired by the Canadian film, ‘It’s All Gone Pete Tong’, which apparently is based on a true incident.

Soundtrack is about an emerging musician, DJ Raunak (Rajeev Khandelwal) whose career in Bollywood is just about to take off when he suddenly turns deaf. The first half of the film presents Raunak’s story from the time he arrives in Mumbai till he achieves acceptance and success in the music industry. He is not only passionate about his art but is almost arrogant about his talent. His success is accompanied by a so-called ‘rockstar’ lifestyle defined by drugs, alcohol and sex. The film’s second half focuses on Raunak dealing with his handicap and finding music in his life again.

Armed with a super premise, one would expect the filmmaker to deliver an impactful film that shocks and inspires you. However, the film falters on both aspects. The first half is very long and the party sequences look tacky. Rajeev also looks a little uncomfortable playing an arrogant guy who is almost always stoned or drunk or both. However, in the second half he is very good as a man who has lost what he valued the most in his life – his music. The film’s leading lady, Soha Ali Khan is also introduced in the second half and has an interesting character. I will not reveal her role but she does deliver a good performance. Another notable performance in the film is by Mohan Kapoor, who plays the owner of the club where Raunak plays initially and later his friend cum opportunistic manager.

While the basic plot and lead actors’ performances keep Soundtrack engaging; the writers’ (Neerav Ghosh, Rajiv Gopalakrishnan, Chintan Gandhi) attempt to make it smarter and arty pulls the film down. Scenes involving Raunak’s alter-ego, represented by a Joker are boring and silly. Also, the makers did not care about authenticity at all; many sequences, especially the ones on the beach are shot at an exotic location abroad while the film is set in Mumbai. Cinematography (Anshuman Mahaley) is not impressive and the editing (Sanjey Roderick, Ambar Vyas) leaves a lot to be desired. The biggest factor that does not work in Soundtrack’s favour is its soundtrack; the music (Midival Punditz, Karsh Kale) is average and does not impress while in the film, it’s supposed to be chartbuster material. Having said that, Soundtrack is a nice film and I recommend watching it once.

My rating: * * * Almost three on five

– Shrey Khetarpal




Hindi cinema is no longer a lesson in moral science…

Pic: Shaitan; Source: Wikipedia

In the seventies, we saw the rise of a Hindi film hero who was anti-establishment and ‘amoral’ (mostly Amitabh Bachchan); but his evil deeds were mostly limited to smuggling of gold or infiltrating the villain’s gang to avenge his father’s murder or his mute sister’s rape. He was never into drugs himself and protected the heroine’s honour with his life. In the nineties, we saw the evil protagonist return with the hero pushing his fiancée off a high rise (Shah Rukh Khan in Baazigar), once again to avenge his father; or the obsessed lover who tries to kill the other guy in order to get the girl (Shah Rukh again in Darr). However, viewers were always given reasons to like the anti-hero with a sad background story… It is only in the new millennium, our filmmakers really started exploring dark themes and the audience started accepting them as well.

New age filmmakers like Vishal Bhardwaj, Anurag Kashyap, Dibakar Banerjee and Sriram Raghavan present their characters as flawed human beings who are jealous, greedy, selfish and at times evil as well. Hindi cinema is no longer a moral science lesson where the good triumphs over the bad but is more real or more fantastical where the good co-exists with the bad. This allows directors, especially the new ones to be brave and present innovative and path breaking ideas. Debutante director, Bejoy Nambiar’s Shaitan also explores something different; it is about the inner evil that over takes all sense and the characters are the victims of their own excesses.

Shaitan is bold, shocking, disturbing and an entertaining thriller… its strength lies in the writers’ (Megha Ramaswamy and Bejoy Nambiar) ability to shock; the principal characters’ vulnerability while they project complete control (great job by all actors); along with the technical finesse. It is a story about five friends who live life on the edge; they trust each other and believe they can do or achieve anything when they are together. They are not go-getters and achievers in the traditional sense but rebels without any cause. Amy (Kalki Koechlin) has not been able to get over her mother’s demise and finds solace or a sense of escape with her new friends in Mumbai; KC (Gulshan Devaiya) is a rich brat who thinks he owns the world and all the women in it; Zubin (Neil Bhopalam) is a geek who is happy to go with what his friends say or do; Tanya (Kirti Kulhari) is bulimic, insecure and dreams about her future with KC; Dash (Shiv Pandit) is the group’s master mind who has nothing to lose but everything to gain from his friends’ insecurities and vulnerability. Things go wrong one day and they need a lot of money to get out of the mess. They plan Amy’s fake kidnapping but things go out of control. An aggressive and sincere cop, Arvind Mathur (Rajeev Khandelwal) gets involved in the whole drama that unfolds in a way that the youngsters had not envisioned.

The film moves at a fast pace apart from the sequences involving Amy’s memories of her mother and Arvind Mathur’s marital discord. While too much focus on Amy’s story distracts from the film’s mood; the scenes between Arvind and his wife are sensitively shot and help empathise with his character. Cinematography by Madhie is outstanding especially a shoot-out sequence in slow motion, set to a remixed version of ‘Khoya Khoya Chand’ in the background. Music by Prashant Pillai, Amar Mohile, Ranjit Barot and Anupam Roy is impactful as it works so well with the film’s narrative. The two remixed tracks, ‘Khoya Khoya Chand’ and ‘Hawa Hawai’ (which appears for only a few seconds) are outstanding. Editing by Sreekar Prasad is also good but the second half could be much tighter.

Overall, Shaitan is a well made film and we have a brilliant new director to applaud. Congratulations, Anurag Kashyap (producer along with Viacom18) for introducing new talent like Bejoy Nambiar and Vikramaditya Motwane (Udaan).

My rating: * * * ½ Three and a half stars on five

– Shrey Khetarpal

Video Courtesy: T-Series