Sunday, May 20, 2007

Gangster (India, 2006)


These days in Bollywood a new “It” girl seems to come on the scene every few months like clockwork. She has a film launched to big fanfare, catches on with the male going public, does a multitude of sexy photo shoots and then grudgingly makes way for the newest flavor. The latest hottie Bollywood drumstick is Kangna Ranaut, who came to Mumbai with stars in her eyes and was apparently discovered drinking coffee in a café by director Anurag Basu who was looking for a lead in his new film Gangster. Being part cynic, I always find these “discovery” stories a bit hard to swallow – but that’s what they are sticking with and it became even more of a fairy tale when Gangster was released to generally good reviews and Kangna became the toast, butter and marmalade of the town. Since Gangster, she has gone on to star in Woh Lamhe, have an affair with a married man and give interviews in which she says things like “I can’t entertain people and stupidities. I mean, come on yaar, I’m here because of me”. Welcome to Bollywood.

She is actually surprisingly fine in the film – in particular in her emotional scenes where she lets herself go. The film itself though is a hodgepodge of clichés (though not necessarily Bollywood ones) that only picks up some steam toward the end of its thankfully short (for Bollywood) running time of 115 minutes. Perhaps most intriguing is the location of the film with most of it taking place in Seoul, Korea. That seems to have likely eaten up most of the budget because the film has a very modest look to it with no money seemingly spent on lavish dance numbers or ambitious sets.

The film begins with Simran (Kangna) knocking on someone’s door and then shooting an unseen man a few times in the body and getting shot herself as she tries to escape. Clearly a flashback is coming, but who would expect it on the operating table as Simran stays wide awake while being gassed and worked on. Remind me not to have my next surgery in India. I really prefer being unconscious when I am cut open. In the very lengthy flashback she is living in Seoul and getting sloshed on a frequent basis. One night she walks into a nightclub and proceeds to down shots of whiskey like salted peanuts and this endears her to Akash (Emraan Hashmi), who sings there. When she falls down drunk outside he picks her up and takes her home and begins to spend time with his Indian Sassy Girl who clearly has some disturbing secret that is making her so unhappy.

One drunken night she locks herself out of her apartment and staggers barefoot across much of the city to Akash’s apartment. This being Seoul no one pays much attention to a woman stumbling down the street in her bare feet. Akash takes her up to his high rise rooftop with no safeguards or railings – always a smart place to take an inebriated person to sleep it off – and she lets out her past. She is the girlfriend of a wanted gangster named Daya (Shiney Ahuja) who has the habit of assassinating people to a musical beat very similar to the one Leon Lai uses in Fallen Angels. She met him five years ago when he barged into her apartment to escape from the police while she was in the middle of a wet sari scene – it was love at first soggy look. She was working in one of those hootchie-kootchie dance bars and has been with him ever since. But she is of course still a virgin since Daya respects her so much. Five years of living together. That's a lot of respect and even more cold showers. So Akash mentally adds this up - girlfriend of killer, ex-bar girl, alcoholic and suicidal - but since she is still a virgin, Akash loves her all the more though he admits they may have to tidy up her background a bit since his parents “have never even sworn in their lives”. Perhaps a bit I guess. And just as it looks like Simran will find love and a family, guess who comes back to town. With much of the Indian police force after him. A few more twists lay waiting for our heroine until she finally finds herself knocking on that door back in Mumbai.

Though there is really no dance choreography to speak of in the film, there are a few very nice songs from Pritam/Sayeed Quadri that either play over montages or the narrative of the film. The main reason to watch this though is the curly haired Kangna who may quickly disappear in the morass of Bollywood but at least for now is “the next big thing”.

My rating for this film: 6.0

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