Monday, 13 July 2009

The Number Game

This hilarious ride is definitely worth your time, writes Sneha May Francis

Cast: Kunal Khemu, Cyrus Broacha, Boman Irani, Soha Ali Khan, Mahesh Manjrekar, Vinod Khanna
Director: Raj Nidimoru and Krishna DK
Rating: TBA

Ever met a tall, heavy-built bodyguard named "Dimple"? The chances of actually meeting a gangster may be remote, let alone finding one with such a silly name. But this is not uncommon in Delhi. Most gangsters have a mean-looking sidekick, with an equally ridiculous name. It's this hilarious gamut of naming traditions in India, each finding a quirky mention, that actually works at some level for the film. It's also the incredible ability of the filmmakers to take a realistic yet humorous twist on India and to poke fun at these eccentricities.

Every city has its idiosyncracies, Delhi and Mumbai are no different. "One is city of actors and the other a city of politicians". And the directors pick out all the minute details and weave it into the plot, without compromising the essence of each city.

Comedy in Bollywood is almost always restricted to the slapstick-kind, mainly acts of buffoonery seen in Coolie No. 1 or Hero No. 1. But 99 has a different take to most comic films. It presents real situations and real people with genuinely funny lines. There's no fluff, no unwanted drama just pure entertainment.

They say it's easy to make dramatic films but not comedies. It's true. And you know a funny film has worked its charm if you walk out of the cinema hall with funny images playing in your head, making you sit back and smile! And that's exactly what good comedies like 99 are made of. It's remarkable how directors Krishna DK and Raj Nidimoru cooked up such a fun concoction after their first Bollywood outing with Flavours.

99 is an unusual title, no doubt, but it works for its symbolic overtones. It talks about a situation in the cricketing language where any score less than a 100 (century), apart from the 50s, doesn't work for a player.

On the cricketing field, it's never the 99s, but the 100s that matter. Similarly, the number 99 sets the pace for the film, where its lead characters have worked hard but keep missing their chance to make it big. But eventually, they get just one shot at setting things right.

The tale
Sachin (Khemu) and Zaramud (Broacha) are techno-thieves who get busted and steal a white Mercedes car for their escape. Only, they end up crashing the car, not knowing its owner is a notorious gangster AGM (Manjrekar). He soon finds the men but decides not to kill them and instead asks them to work for him.
They do well in the beginning and share a good rapport with AGM. But the crazy ride kicks off when they are sent to Delhi to catch an evading businessman and complusive gambler Rahul (Irani), who absconded with AGM's money.
Now the duo must retrieve what Rahul owes the goon. The chase, however, takes an ugly turn when local, petty criminals get their hands on the money, forcing the two to team up with Rahul to make some quick money to keep AGM happy and fix the situation.

We've seen Cyrus Broacha as a funny man on the telly and he's equally, if not more, hilarious on the big screen. He doesn't go overboard with his comic act but handles the obese Zaramud with finesse. Kunal Khemu works well with him. From his early days as a mature boy in Zakm to the more recent angry lover in Kalyug, he's definitely got what it takes. Soha Ali Khan, on the other hand, despite some good performances in the past has very little to do, except sip coffee and grin widely. But the real winners are Boman Irani and Mahesh Manjrekar. They add just the right amount of colour to their characters. Even their eccentricities are protrayed with a maturity that only comes with experience. Vinod Khanna has a small role, but he walks away with class and sophistication. And there's the wimpish money-collector played by Amit Mistry who is mind-blowingly funny and my personal favourite.

Usually, Bollywood prefers to ignore the time frame in a narrative, unless it's an epic film ofcourse. 99 is an exception to the rule. From street posters of Bill Clinton to old, chunky Nokia cellphones, it takes us back to 1999 without any jarring sets.

The verdict
With the Hindi cinema strike dragging on for nearly two months now, we are glad this one braved the battle. This film is definitely going to tickle you silly! I'd suggest a quick trip to the cinema halls. Pack in a big box of pop-corn and some colas. Sit back and have a hearty laugh!Reel romance turns into real love story A little birdie tells us that while filming 99, Soha and Kunal hit it off. The two have been dating on the sly and telling the world that they are just 'friends'. But they've been spotted together on numerous ocassions, at coffee shops and cinema theatres for all to see. However, their on-screen romance has failed to ignite the big screen. Maybe they're better off blaming the script for it!

(Published in e+, Gulf News on June 6, 2009)

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