Monday, November 23, 2009

Kaminey, or, Snatch the True Romance Smoking Barrels

Okay, I'm kidding with that title. While the ishtyle of Kaminey actually does owe something to Guy Ritchie and Tarantino, it is definitely Vishal Bhardwaj's own vision and execution.

Charlie (Shahid Kapoor, of course) is a low-level thug who fixes horse races for upper-level thugs the Bengali brothers--and thrashes those who don't fall in line with the fix. The youngest of the Bengalis, cokehead Mikhail, is Charlie's best friend. He's fierce, fearless, practically amoral--and a lisper, replacing "s" with "f." His greatest ambition is to own his own gambling operation. Oh, yeah, and he hates his twin brother.

Guddu (Shahid Kapoor, of course) works for an NGO, which I assume is a non-profit organization? Anyway, the point of his job is to raise awareness about AIDS prevention and safe sex. We meet him dancing in a red-light district, handing out condoms to hookers and bouncing beneath a red scarf like the rest of his co-workers. This activity (the only time we see him really dancing in the film, which is a shame) is interrupted by Sweety (Priyanka Chopra), who has come to tell him she's pregnant. They both are stutterers, instantly endearing in their initial exchange of recriminations and flailing about for the right course of action.

Of course, what Guddu doesn't know is that the baby, and a shotgun wedding, is the least of his problems. Sweety is the little sister of a sociopathic gangster, Bhope Bhau (Amol Gupte), who's running for elected office. If his sister marries someone who's not a native of Mumbai, he's screwed.

Meanwhile, Charlie's work for the Bengali brothers mixes him up in a drug deal run by Bhope. The fallout from his involvement and Sweety's pregnancy will bring to the two brothers back into each others' lives.

Kaminey, to me, is the best of all worlds. It's tightly plotted, has hilarious dialogue (and excellent subtitling, by the way), is well-edited, and well-shot. (The only production drawback, from my point of view, is the conspicuous lack of in-sync sound. I don't care if you loop your dialogue, but at least do us all a favor and don't make it sound like your actors are sitting in a box when they're out on the street.) However, it's also a specifically Indian story, with internal politics and machinations that can be difficult to decipher (although judging by the reviews I'd say it's impenetrable for almost everyone during the first third). For instance, I have no way of judging accents, etc. but what I could comprehend added up to a very authentic telling of a pretty outrageous tale.

A great deal's already been said about Shahid's performances in this film, but I'll go ahead and add my two cents. (Oh, right, like you ever thought I wouldn't!) He succeeds in creating two completely different men onscreen. Not only that, but he brings an intensity and focus to his portrayals that I haven't seen him evidence before, although I always believed he was capable of it. He shines especially in the scenes where the two brothers share the screen. I actually forgot at the time that they were both him.

Priyanka's Sweety is also proof positive that the girl can act, given proper direction. Utterly de-glammed, desperate, manipulative, and forceful, Sweety is the kind of character--like many in the movie--who balances the thin line between sympathetic and appalling. She probably got pregnant on purpose, but that doesn't mean she doesn't love Guddu, and she sets out to prove it in the fiercest ways possible.

Of course, there's also a large, diverse supporting cast. I enjoyed the unfamiliar faces and realistic performances and hope to see them all again. Then there's the soundtrack, which is fun if too short. (I really think that, had "Pehli Baar Mohabbat" been left in, Sweety would have been entirely appealing.) The one thing that's missing, as Filmi Girl pointed out in her review, is a deep emotional hook. However, I'm willing to take Kaminey as it is and declare it worth every penny.

On the housekeeping front: I've changed my comments to moderated only. Anyone who's a regular reader can probably figure out why! And if you'd like to check out my new Bollywood snark blog, it's here.

ETA: The comments now contain spoilers, so be aware. :-)


  1. Yeah - I just didn't get this one. I know a lot of people liked it and I understand why but it just didn't seem like a complete movie to me. :)

    And speaking of Shahid - I got so caught up in Saifu's plastic botox face that I forgot to mention that I saw the trailer for Dance Pe Chance and it looks AMAZING!!!!!!!!

  2. Meanwhile, Charlie's work for the Bengali brothers mixes him up in a drug deal run by Bhope..

    Not exactly..He goes to the hotel to get his money back from the guy who bribed the jockey. He steals the cop car to get away and that's how he stumbles upon the drugs. Bhope has nothing to do with the drugs at that point.

    Most of the charm lies in the dialogues, though. So a lot of it is lost in translation if you have to rely on sub-titles. VB also hit off local politics to the T. Every crook in the movie is instantly recognizable, which is what makes the movie so amazing. Glad you liked it :-)


  3. Sweety doesn't stutter-- just Guddu does. The times Sweety does stutter, she's sort of poking fun at Guddu, but in a good way, not a harmful way. :)

    I'm glad you liked this film, even if not as much as me. xD Shahid was brilliant!

  4. I started to watch this because I love Vishal Bhardwaj. But I was drunk (I admit!) and could not follow it. Will try again some morning when my brain works better (unless it's been overserved the night before, see above).

    I missed all the drama here, how did that happen? I guess my vacation. And my stupid job, which has chosen now to become all busy. All I can say is: goris represent! :)

  5. Filmi Girl: My husband didn't care for it either; he said if he wanted a film without a heart he'd stick to one without subtitles. LOL And I can't wait for Chance Pe Dance--It does look like fun!

    Neha: Well, that's what I meant. I mean, the whole reason he's at the hotel with the other thugs is related to the racetrack thing, which is when his path crosses with the dirty police officers. I can understand enough Hindi to actually pick out the speech impediments but not enough to pick up the dialogue, so I'm sure that I did miss quite a bit. Not enough to keep me from liking it though!

    rhilex: Actually, at the beginning of the movie she does stutter. She's not poking fun of him at all, she's pretending she has a speech impediment. After the wedding she remembers to stutter again, and he's like, "right. You finally remembered, huh?" Then later she hysterically declares that she *had* to pretend she stuttered just to catch his attention, since he was so wrapped up in his work and his plans that he didn't notice her at all. So it's all part of her plan to catch him, not to mock him. And I totally agree, Shahid is way awesome in this.

  6. memsaab: LOL about being drunk--a fuzzy brain will *not* enhance this film the way it does some others. ;-) As for the drama--eh. It was minor and easily dealt with, so all is well. :-)

  7. I THINK I GET IT ABOUT THE STUTTERING. xD Seriously, you just made a lightbulb go off in my head. I'll have to ask around. When you said in your review that they both stutter, I thought you meant like, she WASN'T pretending and it was genuine. But that line where she says she had to pretend really makes sense now. Huh.

  8. Glad you finally saw it. I liked it a lot. Guess I won't blog bout it anymore, huh? You should blog all his films.

  9. rhilex: LOL There's so much to keep track of in this movie that I'm sure I missed some seriously crucial plot points. You not getting the stuttering thing is very minor, right? :-)

    Filmbuff: I don't know what happened to your comment! I got it in my email but it's gone here. Anyway, I wanted to say thanks for what you said. :-)

    Nicki: You should blog about it. *Everyone* should! LOL I have Dil Bole Hadippa up next...

  10. For a first attempt, Vishal Bhardwaj did a fabulous job with Kaminey. I saw an interview of his where he said it was the most difficult and stressful experience of his life and he won't make another movie like this again. I hope he changes his mind. He spoke of all that he would've done differently, but there wasn't much wrong with the film, if you ask me. If you are interested, Rangan's review sums up the positives and negatives very well.

  11. Hi Anonymous! I agree with you, there's very little wrong with the film, and for a first attempt it's absolutely astounding. I wouldn't be surprised if he did change his mind. After all, money and recognition are powerful motivators! :-) And thanks for the link, I'll definitely check it out.

  12. Thanks for the spoiler warning, I skipped over the comments. I have Kaminey and am a little aprehensive about watching it. It seems to have ranked among everyone's favorites over the summer, but so did Love Aaj Kal, and I didn't care for that one. I don't know how one can go wrong with Shahid though, so I'll probably get to it sooner rather than later.
    I think I'll que it after I finish watching Duplicate.

  13. I am still waiting in the library queue (there are like forty people ahead of me!) to get my hands on this.

    "For a first attempt, Vishal Bhardwaj did a fabulous job" - am I missing something here? He's written, directed, produced and composed for several other films before!

  14. PS: Loved your interview on webneetech and it was great to finally see what you look like (absolutely gorgeous)!

  15. shell: If you go in with minimal expectations, I'd say you're more likely to have a positive experience. ;-)

    bollyviewer: Yes! Thank you! Okay, I looked it up just now and of course he's done Maqbool and Omkara--I thought I must have gotten it wrong when I read that comment to which you refer. Maybe Anon meant a first attempt at a non-Shakespeare-adaptation? I hope you'll blog about it when you finally get your hands on it--in, oh, 2011 or so! LOL I'd love to see what captions you come up with for the brothers. Oh, and thank you for the compliment. *blush*

  16. Ajnabi - vishal Bharadwaj has also done "The Blue Umbrella" based on Ruskin Bond's novel. A truly good movie worth watching for the child star and Pankaj Kapoor (Shahid Kapur's dad)

  17. Hey Ajnabi... I was wondering when you'd bring up Kaminey.I happen to be a Shahid fan.Blind enough for Jab We Met to be my favourite Hindi movie ever, to have watched Kismat Konnection many, many times and ranted about how under-rated it was, to wonder how people dare say he imitates SRK.. come on people Shahid has always been doing his own thing!But not too blind to be able to criticize stuff like Ishk Vishk or 36 China Town (in spite of the cute Shahid moments)....
    Kaminey was a wonderfully crafted movie....Shahid was great and yes I did have to remind myself that Charlie and Guddu were both Shahid in the scenes they were together.Charlie even struck me as a little fatter than Guddu so I'm wondering how far apart they shot the scenes.Priyanka did a good job compared with her other work, though she was never my favourite.
    Shahid always strikes me as a hard worker and eventually that's got to pay off, hai na? (And here i'm hoping the Hindi grammar police that have previously made a special appearance on you blog don't come after me)...
    Anyway Ajnabi I'm glad you enjoyed it.. i did too but as this specific genre is not my favourite-too dark- i probably won't be rewatching it anytime soon...and I call myself a Shahid fan!
    Dil Bole Hadippa... now that's another story.. can't wake for your take on it!

  18. Pardesi--as you can see from my (Darshit-created!) banner, I am a huge fan of the boy as well. And I've been known to get overly defensive about the SRK comparisons. LOL I think the illusion of carrying more weight was created by dressing Guddu in slightly too-big shirts and adding a shoulder slump. I agree that Shahid's worked hard to get where he is today; hopefully it will continue to pay off. He's definitely approaching the top of the food chain. ;-) Dil Bole Hadippa was fun in a differnt way. (Oh, and if the Hindi Purity Police say anything, they'll be deleted before their comment ever appears, so I think we're safe. LOL)

    Filmbuff: That's right! I keep on meaning to see that and keep on getting distracted. Stupid attention deficit disorder. ;-)

  19. Nice review, ajnabi! This is sonima from twitter by the way :-) This genre of movies is not everyone's cup of tea. If it wasn't for Shahid, I probably wouldn't have watched it. But I was blown away by his performance and everyone else's in the movie. VB is truly a genius!

    Pardesi: Shahid said he filmed Guddu and Charlie simultaneously. So it probably was just the way they were dressed.

  20. This was a *perfect* movie in all aspects; in rather imperfect year 2009. Every other movie had its own glitches. But here everything is awesome. Definitely Shahid Deserves to be awarded for the performance(s)

  21. Ajnabi - Shahid's interview on Farah Khan's chat show "Tere Mere Beech Mein" (Between the two of us) was very good. That guy is not only good looking and talented but also has his head on his shoulders. This chat show is available on DVD (2 volumes so far) in desi shops Down Under. I presume you may get them in the US too from local desi stores. BTW, Genelia D'Souza too was part of the show along with Shahid.

  22. Hey there, Ajnabi. I've had this on DVD for a couple weeks now, if not more. Didn't get to it over Thanksgiving, but your review and the comments mean I must see it soon. Very soon. Shall report back.

    @Filmbuff: Always appreciate a Genelia D'Souza sighting...thanks! :)

  23. complete paisa vasool. loved it - felt like a movie on a high

  24. Hi Sonia! "Not everybody's cup of tea" I'm sure, which explains why it didn't rock the box office. Like you, I liked it a lot, obviously, but I can certainly understand why others didn't.

    Darshit: ITA that Shahid should be awarded. I'm not sure if industry insiders will allow it thought. ;-)

    Filmbuff: I saw that episode! It was great. Thank goodness for shahidonline's transcript though because I don't speak enough Hindi to understand, like, half of what they said. LOL

    TBF: Have you seen it yet? What did you think?

    San: It was definitely money's worth and quite dizzying. :-)

  25. Hi ajnabi,

    This is Ravi who had given the "unsolicited advice" on apunbindaas blog. just glanced through your blog - from your second post, seems like you have a soft corner for romantic comedies. You can choose dime-a-dozen of them in telugu as telugu industry has a very very huge soft corner for comedy and there are only few dark movies.

    enjoy and feast on them.


  26. I really enjoyed this and I loved the 'kaminapan' of all the charaters.

    I guess the emotional hook was meant to be the turbulent relationship Guddu and Sweety have, but I guess they could have developed that a bit further.

    I really like Shahid so a double role was an added treat, I found that I liked it even more on he rewatch because I didn't have to pay as much attention to the plot and could sit back and enjoy the dialogues. Priyanka proved Fashion wasn't just a fluke and she really is a versatile actress.

    I completely agree with you on the verdict, total paisa vasool.
    I'll be reviewing this on my own blog some time soon.

  27. Hi Ravi! I have been growing more and more fond of Telugu films lately. Thanks for the recommendations!

    MsBlogger: Yeah, you know, there was so much going on plotwise that I'm not surprised there wasn't much room left for emotion.


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