After a meaty ‘Virumaandi’ and a rehashed ‘Vasool Raja,’ Kodambakkam’s master chef returns with cinema of the fast food variety.
Mumbai Express seems to be a film written by a confident Kamal Haasan and shot by Singeetham Srinivasa Rao in express speed. Writing a script in three days can be a good thing and a bad thing. Good because the flow is spontaneous and the imagination too is let loose. Bad because three days isn’t adequate time to flesh out the characters.
But being the genious he is, Kamal surely has done justice to at least 80 per cent of the characters he’s created — the gang of four planning the kidnap is an absolute riot. It’s in the 20 per cent he skipped that the movie falters — the characters of Manisha and the fat kid, to be precise.
What Kamal Haasan as a screenwriter really had to do was to borrow blinkers from the horse he cast in the film and use them to keep his eyes on the core premise — the story of the kidnap that went wrong when planned right and which went right when intended against. Confused? Well, I guess that will make sense when you watch the film.
The human family drama, romantic angle and sentiment crap that unfolds shortly after interval really was out of sync with the rest of the narrative. This is where Express goes off track. Fast forward twenty minutes (including song) and you’re back to the meat of the plot. The run-for-the-money sequences in the film alone could have given ‘Chandramukhi’ a run for its money, but the excess baggage (family drama/sentiment) slows down Express and turns out to be the chain (of events) that stops the train.
After all, adventure is a genre which can really do without irrelevant sentiment. Manisha’s change of heart in the end is so sudden and contrived that Kamal could have just made Manisha fall in love with him much earlier in the film or at least dropped hints of interest. The fat kid who starts off on a promising note, is forgotten in the second half of the film and gets lost in the proceedings. Blame that on the screenwriter.
Having said all that, I remember reading somewhere that ordinary men are written about for their successes, the extra-ordinary are written about even for their failures. Kamal as a screenwriter might have messed up the script just a little, but the performer redeems the film
and the veteran director’s touch is evident throughout, especially in the timing and subtlety with which the actors deliver their punch-lines.
Technically speaking, having shot for my film with the same model of digital camera that Kamal Haasan used in ‘Mumbai Express,’ I for one, can say that the technicians have done a phenomenal job in creating a canvas which only 35mm film is known to provide, on simple digital video. Having said that, lack of exciting song sequences do make the film seem longer than it actually is and is actually the reason if you at any point that the film was looking like a TV serial.
But again, the digital projection at Abhirami was good to the extent that most viewers didn’t even realise that the film was shot on digital video. Those who watched the film at Kasi and Sathyam however seem to have observed pixellated frames, probably caused because of problems encountered by Kamal either in reverse telecine (process of printing video to 35mm film) or possible human error in the projector room caused by zooming into picture area to leave margins out of the canvas.
[My friends who watched the movie in Prarthana drive in (one of the biggest screens in town) say that the projection there was just fine. This is what makes me believe that the pixellation in Kasi/Sathyam was probably a human error!]
Mumbai Express might not be a wholesome unlimited meals, but is surely timepass cinema of the fast-food variety. Get entertained. Instantly. And get hungry within minutes after you walk out!
P.S: After that, you know where to head for filling entertainment, don’t you? Ikkada Choodu audience gaaru… simply Chandramukhi paaru! 😀