May 17, 2009 @ 12:58 am
A movie by Raj Nidimoru and Krishna DK, 99 is a comedy that keeps sufficient distance from the kinds we have been subjected to in the recent past. For once, a Hindi comedy does not have Paresh Rawal being forced into slapstick humor running around a fancy set. We also don’t have Akshay Kumar donning the role of a simpleton much to Katrina’s fancy. Hindi comedy watchers need something more, something different.
99 provides us that, with the entire star cast doing a fabulous job of executing their roles to make 99 seem more than a 100 at almost every frame. Kunal Khemu, who I had seen briefly in Traffic Signal, comes across fitting perfectly in the role of ‘Sachin’, a quintessential Indian entrepreneur trying to somehow make it big. His role is enhanced by his long-time friend portrayed by an obese Cyrus Broacha, who perhaps at times forgets to disengage from his VJ mode.
Kunal and Cyrus are petty criminals, but of the technology kind. They know how to create duplicate SIM cards with ease, but where they falter is in keeping themselves covered. This lands them in the net of the local don played by Mahesh Manjrekar, a role which he had earlier essayed in Slumdog Millionaire. The only difference is that while in SM he came across as a serious evil ruffian, over here you can’t help but smile at his antics.
A decent yardstick to measure the quality of a movie early on (and to brace yourself for something good or bad) is to see how comfortable you are with the creativity displayed in the way the titles are shown. I have found that if the titles are shown very artistically and in an appealing manner, more often than not the movie turns out to be good. Of course, this is just a sort of thumb rule that I tend to follow sometimes.
99 opens in a very nice way, the names of the actors blending in with the Mumbai landscape. Add to this an enthralling background music score and you are all set for a couple of hours of cinematic artistry, the likes of which were perhaps last seen in Bheja Fry.
Boman Irani and Simone Singh are a Delhi based couple whose marriage is now under threat of falling apart, thanks to Boman’s incessant obsession with gambling. Boman reads ‘signals’ from above that tell him about his gambling outcomes. A pen falling off the table, a bottle of water spilling out – vital signs during any corporate meeting are read by Boman as signs that he should bet. Bet on India in the on going cricket series, or bet on his card trio. One thing leads to another and Boman ends up in a huge debt to many lenders, one of them being Mahesh Manjrekar.
The fun begins hence and an actor to really watch out for is Amit Mistry, who plays the role of a local money lender, aptly called ‘Kuber’ in the movie. Throw in some spoof on Bhojpuri actors and the Delhi way of living and you have a healthy set of moments in this movie that you make you sit up and laugh, realizing all the while that comedy can still be different and funny.
Soha Ali Khan is graceful with a short role and one big actor of yesteryears to watch out for is Vinod Khanna. Being a superstar of his era and then returning to do a sensible film with mostly ‘fringe’ actors (who in this outing are far better than their mainstream peers) is commendable. The eye for detailing in this movie is worth a mention and this is shown to you even in the film credits which roll by telling you that the “Chick checking out art” was a girl named Priya Desai, someone who has just a fleeting moment in the background on the streets of Mumbai and whose face was never shown to the camera. Yet, the movie team lists it in the film credits. That detailing, that precision adds up across many threads of this movie and makes it a wonderful treat.