Friday, August 01, 2008

Catching up with Johny Gaddaar

Before I mention what I liked about the film noir of Johny Gaddaar, I'd like to mention briefly why I watched it in the first place.

Stylistic movies in Bollywood are derivative. In other words, the breath of fresh air that they are supposed to bring ends up smelling a lot like something you'd encounter in Chembur. You may appreciate being in a new neighborhood but the scenery is familiar.

Be that as it may, in one of the previews I saw a character clutch a James Hadley Chase book - quite prominently. And having grown up a steady diet of the sheer pulpy decadence of those books, I couldn't resist watching the movie.

Johny Gaddaar is a double-cross caper. Its got a tricky script - a series of stacked coincidences power it that could easily have run the film aground. But a couple of things save it and end up making it a fairly entertaining ride.

First, director Sriram Raghavan (Ek Hasina Thi) develops the characters of his supporting cast with care and wit. He stages his scenes with a scattershot urgency - he can't seem to keep his characters or his camera still. Its reminiscent of the early days of Robert Rodriguez, back when Rodriguez had less faith in his talent. But Raghavan's ability to distill the humor from the sheer incredulity of the situation serves him very well. He has much fun with Dharmendra's aging smuggler Seshadri who Raghavan presents as a tough as nails crook with a lyrical heart.

All through Raghavan wears his love for movies like a badge - constantly referencing many in this film. The meat of the caper comes from a 1971 Amitabh Bachchan starrer called Parwana. The titular character's name is picked up from an old Dev Anand flick. The funniest one of all is when Dharmendra mutters "Its not the age, its the mileage" an oft-recounted line from this ground breaking film.

Second is the performance of Neil Nitin Mukesh. Its hard to say - without more data points - if Mukesh found the character or the role just found him. But his deadpan rendition of Vikram, aka Johny Gaddaar, goes a long way in holding up the credibility of the movie.

How so? This is a movie where deception lurks at every corner. And most of it is engineering by Vikram. Vikram manages to convince people close to him that he isn't a suspect. If Mukesh had tried to visibly milk any moral conflict out of a scene, you'd have wondered why his friends and associates couldn't see through him. (His costar Rimi Sen misses this point in a key scene in a restaurant and ends up jeopardizing it)

But instead Mukesh brings an easy zen blankness to the role - Vikram is opportunistic and seems to have a conscience that is easily (and repeatedly) overridden. But his actions are guided by a part of him that you can't fully fathom. This inability to grasp the character and the full complement of his motivation is fairly central to the success of the movie.

One final word on Johny Gaddaar -  it has got patches of very gritty violence. I'm usually fairly wimpy about it - especially when its directed at women or children (and there is some of the former here), but I wasn't unduely horrified. Your tolerance - however - may wary.

40 comments:

jaggo said...

I was blown away by Vinay Pathak and the actor who plays his wife (she is a TV star I believe). You're right about the amorality, though. That's what made Johnny Gaddar kinda chilling. Downright immorality is easier to handle. I must say that while watching the movie, I wasn't always comfortable with the feeling of not being able to decide one way or another.

m said...

oh i love love love Johnny Gaddar! i remember i used to always talk about it here and no one else had watched the movie so i'd have sweet conversation all with me, myself and i...good times!

i liked how Vikram wasn't apologetic and he wasn't all conscientious and he had no guilt..i found that really HOT.. thank god a main character in a desi flick who didn't steal because his mom was in hospital or had sisters and family to support.. UGH..

Neil was so good in the movie and man was he hot or was he sexy..i would love to be a vixen teaming up with Vikram and being outlaws conning people all over the world.. and at home i would be a seedhi saadhi wife who cooks him paranthas and makes him do the dishes.. and then has some hot and steamy err nevermind

my favorite scene was when shesadri finds out that he killed shiva and then he instantly fesses up and acts like he is all sorry then ruthlessly kills him.. OMG! i loved that scene!!!

i am gonna watch the dvd again this weekend...

Never Mind!! said...

This was my top movie last year. Revealing the suspense to the viewer and unfolding it slowly to the rest of teh characters is what made it for me. There have been so many instances in the movie when I wanted to jump into the screen and tell them who did it.

Neil was amazing in this one but like you said, we need more data points to see if he is consistent. The only disappoint for me in this movie was Dharam paaji.

j said...

Actually Dharmendra was Dharmendra. I dont think he ever acts well but somehow ends up being this lovable guy that everone adores.

Yeah, Neil is definitely on my list of actors to watch out in the future. I totally loved him in the movie and since the movie was a sort of homage to my other favourite Amitabh Bachchan I enjoyed it even more.

The TV actress I believe is Ashwini Kalsekar made famous by her villianish role in Ekta's Kasam Se. Her acting was amazing.

j said...

So is everyone ready to watch Himesh and his new hairstyle on TV today?

maxdavinci said...

[himessing]
The movie was super, brilliant, mind blowing, outstanding, kya baat hain, jhakaas and above all JMLR!
[/himessing]

Quelled under the weight of SRK's two blockbusters it didn't earn the respect it should have. But will be the biggest selling DVD of 2007 after Taare Zammen Par.

I've rewinded that train scene again and again, just so that I cud do it one day(not the robbery!).

[shekarism]
neil nitin ki performance mein kya paawar hain! Acting quality itni fresh hain, ki dil ko chooh jaati hain. main zaroor ticket khareedonga unko dekhne ke liye!
[/shekarism]

SunnyD said...

I think overall the movie is excellent. Its 100x times better than RGV's factory of crime.

But what I find hard to believe is that how all of the gang members easily trusted Neil? Even after Dharamendra and inspector died never did Vinay Phatak or Shardul suspect Neil of this? It could have gotten far more interesting had both of them suspected the rest!

Also I'm disappointed on how Neil Mukesh has been totally ignored at most of the awards. All awards ended up pleasing the new Kapoor on the block; all he had to do was to drop the towel and everyone lapped it up.

However a commendable performance by Neil was simply not enough for the best debut award... Anyways less said abt the awards the better.

This movie actually pays homage to the Vijay Anand thriller movie genre rather that Amitabh's Parwana, that's why Johnny mera Naam is shown in the telly when Neil walks into a lodge.

Pitu said...

Hmm I wonder if it's available on netflix. Sunny, that's the 'paawer' of the Kapoor Khandaan to you. I don't even know why I was shocked.

Anonymous said...

I am not sure if this was reviewed/discussed here before (if it has, my apologies), but ya'll should see "Ek Chaalis ki Last Local". It is an amazing movie and its storyline and screenplay were quite unique, unlike the normal junk the Indian film industry (I hate the term bollywood) churns out.

Aspi, you should review it when you get a chance.

-- Texan

Aspi said...

I have to say I agree with all the thoughts here.

Ashwini Kalsekar did a terrific job, although I wish they didn't have that little expository dialog from her in the end.

j, you're right. I adored Dharminder in the movie even though I knew he was sleep walking through the movie. That last scene of his - heartbreaking!

SunnyD, you are right - the fact that no one suspects Neil is a big problematic in the script. But that was the reason I thought Neil's performance was so good. By playing it straight he might have made the movie less accessible, but ended up being very convincing.

I haven't seen Saawariya but Ranbir must have acted out of his skin to win the Filmfare Award.

Or the Filmfare Award just went to the bigger star dad.

Aspi said...

Pitu and Texan, sorry didn't see your comments - my gmail forward is a little busted.

Texas will check out that movie - it is on netflix and in my queue now. I am also planning to see Manorama because I hear its good. Let the noir season begin!

Aspi said...

JMLR! I am ready for Himesh! I've been waiting so long I hope the show doesn't suck. I mean I hope it sucks just enough that its good.

Pitu said...

Dude Manorama is awesome! At least one Deol man can act well ;-) And Sarika looks v v purty.

And Ranbir in Saaboriya? He was ATROCIOUS! One of his early dialogs with Rani Mukherjee is-

Yeh mera ball hai- kya hai na, mere pas takiya nahi hai. Isliye main ball ko takiya banake so jata hoon. Isliye mera ball girta rehta hai.

All this said with wide eyes and an ooh-look-at-me-i-am-so-bhola-bhala look

*roll eyes*

I was dissing this movie with my pal over the phone and I don't need to tell you how much fun we had with this dialog :-p

You rly need to see Saawariya and review it for us ;-)

m said...

i can't wait for sriram dude's next movie, its called dreamgirl and will star ash and john abraham

Aspi said...

I think it'll be pretty cool because John is such a maverick star (in a good kind of way) that he'll push Aish to do something different.

I found this link related to the news.

Anonymous said...

Aspi :
Put the name of Brick Road in the list of movies you will watch along with Ram Chand Paksitani

Anonymous said...

Sorry Brick Lane - Besed o Monica Ali's Book

Aspi said...

Really? Brick Lane got reamed by Owen Gleiberman a few weeks ago so I decided to give it a miss.

What did you like about it?

Yajnaseni said...

I've seen both Manorama Six Feet Under and 1.40 Ki Last Local, and for those who liked these films, I would also recommend Mithya. I find it really interesting the way Hindi films are using ensemble casts. If nothing else, they provide an excellent opportunity for 'character artists', who are now becoming stars in their own right. Trade experts apparently feel someone like Vinay Pathak, for instance, draws good opening crowds, like A-list heroes.

Pitu said...

I adore Ranvir Shorey- he was fantastic in Mithya as well.

Never Mind!! said...

My vote to Mithya and Manorama. Pardon my ignorance but someone pray tell me what JMLR is?

Poor Neil. I felt like kicking Ranbir's cute little butt and make him apologize and hand the award back to Neil. But if he really is anywhere as good as he seemed in Johny, awards are in his way.

Dint know about Sriram Raghavan's next. Will be really interesting to watch.But werent AB Jr and JA in some kind of fight a while ago?

Aspi said...

I will definitely check out Mithya.

JMLR stands for Jai Matadi Lets Rock. More here.

I loved the scenes where Vinay Pathak has offenders pull out cards to determine if he should get them beaten up.

Pitu said...

Not Aby and John. Sallu miya and John and Shahid and John don't get along.

Anonymous said...

The overall Flow of Brick Lane is Nice and You see Satish Kaushik at his best.
BTW - The Female Lead From Delhi is also going places Internationally and India Today mentioned her in last week's edition

Anonymous said...

Tattoo Menia In Bollywood

Deepika Now Puts Towel Kumar's Name on Her Neck

http://in.movies.yahoo.com/news-detail/30455/Deepika-Going-Saif-Way.html

Anonymous said...

Salman-Katrina split

After splitting from his former girlfriend Aishwarya Rai, Salman had showered all his emotions on Katrina, but he seems to have lost her too as she is quite upset with him. Industry sources said Katrina is no mood to forgive him for his behaviour with Shah Rukh on her birthday which attracted much media attention. The sources said that after the incident Salman and Katrina are not on talking terms.

"Katrina is blaming Salman for the entire episode," said a common friend. Katrina opined that Salman should have restrained himself as he was playing the host. "But certain things are not in anyone’s control and it is destined to happen," Katrina told a leading TV channel in an interview.

A close friend of Salman said, "He is good at heart. He took initiative for the party to please Katrina. But everything went wrong." Salman and Katrina’s relationship was already going through a rough patch. Her ambition is the reason for Salman’s anguish. The British-born actress has long stopped taking his advice regarding her professional life, which irked the actor.

Salman, who is known for his hot temper, had objections to Katrina’s choice of films, her co-stars and even the outfits she wore for some films

j said...

While we are on a recommendation spree let me recommend Sudhir Misra's Hazaaron Khwaish Aisi. This is one of the few stories out of bollywood that spans a certain era and to see the actors grow in their respective characters is awesome. Chitrangada, Shiney and KK - all three protaganist bring the best out of each other.

Bheja Fry - Its a copy of a French movie and that s**ks because it does not give credit to the original. But its a must watch for Vinay Pathak and Rajat Kapoor's acting. And also has Sarika.

Manorama - definitely a watch. I loved the middle class nuances in Gul Panang's character. How she would put a chunni on her nighty when opening the door or how she would hold her cup with her saree pallu. The director has an eye for detail that is usually missing in Hindi movies.

Ek Chalis Ki Local - I did not enjoy the movie as much as I did Manorama or Johny. A good attempt, a very good insight into mumbai after dark but the cohesiveness was missing.

j said...

Aspi, I actually think Aish does pretty different stuff usually. Her body of characters that she has played is quite varied from Khakhi, Dhoom2, Chokher Bali, Raincoat, Provoked to Jodha.

I actually want to see her play an easy going character for a change. Someone normal like Rani in Hum Tum or Kareena in Jab We Met. Someone more identifiable.

j said...

I dont know what it is about SRGMP but I get hooked on to it as soon as it starts. Enjoyed the show yesterday. Dont know if it is the cheesy dance by Aditya or the tacky clothes or the way the judges make an entrance. I think they do it just right.

Pitu said...

J, HKA was indeed awesome. I just wanted to slap Kaykay :-/ Shiney Ahuja rocked. Did you notice he was credited as 'Roshan' Ahuja? I wonder if that's his real name and Shiney is just a silly translation. 'Baawra man' is one of my all-time fave songs :-)and it's sung by Swanand Kirkire the lyricist. I wish he'd sing more.

BB was a frame by frame copy and that rly pissed me off. Zero originality and they didn't even credit their inspiration. So much for being 'hatke'. I swear these Bollywood directors are just chors. However, Vinay Pathak was phenomenal :-D In fact, I thought he was rly fun in Manorama as well!

Aspi said...

I think I'm going to collect all the Drift recommendations for movies into a post or a sidebar.

Enjoyed that opening dance on SRGMP too but haven't watched the rest. Soon!

Pitu said...

Not BB, I meant 'BF'.

Anonymous said...

Yes, I would also highly recommend "Hazaaron Khawashein Aisi". While beauty is subjective, I think Chitrangada Singh is by far the hottest/prettiest woman in the Indian Movie industry (way better than Kareena, Aishwarya, etc.). It's a pity we don't get to see her in more films.

I loved Bheja Fry as well. But, just like my fellow drifters, I think copying (and then not attributing the original source) is not cool.

I heard that "Manorama 6 feet under" was also a rip-off of Jack Nicholson's "China Town".

We recenttly watched "Shaurya". While I really enjoyed the movie, and it starred one of my favorite actors Rahul Bose, it was quite disappointing to see that this movie was, again, a virtual copy of "A Few Good Men".

Now that I think about it, is it really surprising that most (note: not all) Indian film industry personnel are not very original? I mean look at their fashion (mostly western), their fake American accents (Salman anyone?), their slang (mindblowing anyone?), their mannerisms (as portrayed in movies), music, and hinglish lyrics (I could go on). There is lot of cheap and tacky imitation. Clearly there is a massive western (read mostly American) influence on the Indian movie industry. To me this reflects a lack of pride in what these guys 'create' and a lack of self esteem.


-- Texan

m said...

HKA was decent but totally contrived like every other Sudhir Mishra movie I have seen.

The heavy accent gave me a headache as well, i just dind't get why it was in English

Pitu said...

Texan, I wouldn't call Manorama a rip-off. I love Chinatown (Faye Dunaway was magnificent) and it's way superior than Manorama. But Manorama definitely falls into the 'inspired' category, rather than an out and out copy. Also, while Chinatown is a classic, Manorama had its own idiom. I loved the setting, the characters, the small touches- the neighbor who eyes the scooter, Abhay's clothes, the narration.. (as J mentioned- Gul Panag's very small town mannerisms) made me feel that a lot of thought and effort went into making it. BF was just pathetic in terms of the blatant theft.

Regarding the lack of originality- I completely agree. That's why A R Rahman is in a league of his own. Him and Gulzar. Everyone else is dispensable. These people won't learn till H'wood starts to sue :-p

Teddy said...

On the subject of plagiarism, I was just watching SRGMP09, and one of the contestants started singing an arabic song that I really like, and I was excitedly telling my mom that the song is "habibi ya noor-al-ain" by Amr Diab, and she says no, the caption said that the composer is Anu Malik! As my jaw dropped in disbelief, sure enough there were a few hindi lyrics inserted into the song, but the entire tune, music and words is lifted. Anu Malik indeed! Chor!

Anyhow, I am so glad to see the Himes back with his drama, his jhagda, his bombastic statements, and his tighter than tight black shirt with buttons straining across his waxed, shiny, heaving man bosom! All other musical talent shows pale into insignificance. I am missing the chubby, mobile jewellery shop called Bappi though. Enjoyed the sight of Aadesh looking daggers at His Himeshness while Himesh tried to pick a fight with Anant Mahadevan.

JMDLR!!!!

pitu said...

Ok, just added this to my netflix q :-)

Cinderella said...

every time i tried watching this movie something used to go wrong and i ended up NOT watching it.anyway i'l read ur review only after i see it.i dont want the suspense gone:)

Anonymous said...

Oh wow!
Saw it yesterday and couldnt help but think - Indian movies have come a long, long way!
Some of the violence (the nurse scenes) were a bit much but the killings had my mouth wide open!
The actors were all good - well, maybe except Dharmendra....
Thanks for the review - will watch your blog for more suggestions

Pitu said...

Watched it tonite- disappointed :-/ Neil needs to join acting class. Writing the review on my blog..