Well, shoot! This was not a great movie. After I spent all that time reading and thinking about the book, the film was just bleh. Kanan Gill was still amazing, but the rest of it really wasn’t worth it. Oh, and then the end credits song with Badshah and Diljit was fun too.
As I said in my post on the book, the story has 3 main thrusts. The biggest and most interesting is the social criticism of Karachi society. And then there is the feminist story of our heroine realizing she had everything she needed all along, she just didn’t believe in herself. And finally there is the romance, her old friend Saad who keeps coming in and out of her life. The book could do that, have multiple interwoven themes, because books can handle that kind of complexity. A traditional 3 hour Indian film can handle that complexity as well, think of something like Phir Bhi Dil Hai Hindustani which combined a love story with commentary on media with a story of political corruption. But this is not a 3 hour movie, this is less than 2 hours. And they really needed to just pick one of those themes and stick with it.
What’s frustrating is that there are still some good things in it! The characters especially, our heroine and hero and friends and co-workers were all more well-rounded and developed than I am used to in Hindi film. Some of the dialogue is kind of clever too, although it’s hampered by using soooooooooooo much English in a way that feels kind of awkward. If it had been a light romance with a small career storyline interacting with it, using these fun characters and clever dialogue, it could have been a nice little movie.
The problem is, it has aspirations to be more than just a light romance. Our heroine isn’t just a funny strong smart woman, she is supposed to turn into the voice of a generation kind of thing. And her journey isn’t just about falling for a rogue and then finding true love with her old friend, it’s about some big understanding of what “journalism” is. And the light dialogue and awkward young actors just can’t carry that kind of a story.
The director really really can’t carry that kind of a story. Sunhil Sippy, so far as I can see has nothing else really on his filmography. He is part of “the” Sippy family, which is presumably why he got the job. And he is terrible! Stuff like, dialogue starting before the camera was seeing the actors’ faces. Confusing editing, spacial relations that never quite made sense, and really no sense of how to direct the actors. It wasn’t all super obvious, digital cameras can hide a multitude of sins, but the end result was everything feeling kind of “stagey”, and constantly being taken out of the story because you were trying to figure out who was in this scene, and where it was, and what time of day.
Sonakshi, unfortunately, can’t carry it either. Or at least she can’t carry it all on her own. I still haven’t seen Lootera (I know, I know), but I have been impressed with Sonakshi in other roles, including as recently as Akira. But, going back to my Hindi Film 101 post on women in the industry, she just doesn’t have the ability to single-handedly save a film. Not because she is a “bad actress” necessarily, but because she doesn’t have the knowledge or authority to say “Okay, we have to add a scene here, cut this scene, and fire the director” the way a more experienced star, with greater power in the industry, could. That’s the flaw, not in her acting ability or anything else, but in her ability to serve as a check and balance on the director and force a course correction as necessary, the way the major male stars can. Well, and Rani Mukherjee. If someone like that had been leading this picture, it would have been fixed way back at the script stage.
You know who is wonderful in this movie? Kanan Gill! I continue to just love him. He was the only one who seemed to be having a good time onscreen. If you, like me, have a bit of a Kanan Gill crush, it might be worth watching just for that. But otherwise, don’t bother.
(How can you not love him?)
Oh, but if you do see it, make sure to stay for the end credits, where they throw in a Badshah item song for no reason at all. Well, besides the obvious reason that Badshah is wonderful! And also Diljit Dosangh. I’m assuming that this was a last minute attempt to go hard after the north Indian audience, because the southern one is going to be a total write off thanks to Baahubali 2.