Director: Anurag Kashyap
Cast: John Abraham, Ayesha Takia, Ranvir Shorey, Paresh Rawal
Storyline: A chain-smoker is coerced into quitting by a mysterious, dangerous rehabilitation centre.
Bottomline: You can’t smoke without a match, can you?
There are many ways to light up.
Many years ago, they used to rub stones together.
Then came matches.
And soon enough, lighters.
There are many ways to express.
Many years ago, they used to scribble on the walls with stone.
Then came paint.
And soon enough brushes, canvas, paper and film.
Evolution. All to make life simpler for us. Ready-made solutions. Assembly-line productions. To make sure we save time. Walk in, walk out. Be entertained. Smile.
Until, we ushered in the era of designer-wear, tailor-made solutions customised to suit individual tastes. Multiplexes. Boutiques. Galleries. To give art a platform. To make people think. And appreciate.
Anurag Kashyap has gone one step further and made a film meant for the future.
One that will appeal to a select few. Could be immediate family. Friends. Pet. Or maybe just for his nicotine stick to enjoy it while it lasts. Before it turns impotent and becomes ash.
No doubts about it at all that John Abra-born-to-ham, Anurag Kashyap, Vishal Bharadwaj and Kumar Mangat deserve five stars for effort and the decision to attempt a genre that nobody in the right mind would have dared to produce.
Anurag Kashyap comes up with a truly brilliant idea that borders on genius and ruins it only because he tries too hard. Imagine, you have rolled up the perfect joint… And instead of just smoking it, you get adventurous. You try lighting it by rubbing stones together just to prove a point.
But K, the brilliance of abstraction always lies in simplicity. No matter how complex you want the construction of semiotics to be, no matter how layered you want the thoughts and statements to be, the overall idea behind the entire process of expression needs to be a fairly simple one. To put it simply, we don’t care how you light your joint as long as you don’t ruin the joint itself.
For the benefit of all those who swore at the screen at the end of the film demanding for a book explaining the film, here is my most charitable guess at what was in Anurag’s joint in the first place.
The film is trip into the mind of a smoker who has been forced to quit. He is made to pay by cheque (i.e. a heavy price that seems unreasonable), threatened by a Baba who has three ‘Sri’s before his name (Art of Living anyone?) about the ill-effects of his smoking… That first, his family would be gassed (i.e. he would be endangering his family’s health by forcing them to inhale poison gas, a metaphor for passive smoking), his fingers would be chopped off (that he will cause himself bodily harm by his continued stint at smoking), his beloved would die (they would leave him) and finally, his soul too (his body will incinerate and he gets no chance at redemption). And that his salvation or healing lies in his ability to make more people give up smoking.
The plot from Stephen King’s story Quitters Inc aside (maybe it is pure co-incidence that Cat’s Eye treated the addict’s urge to smoke with a surreal hallucination sequence), if you’ve seen Vanilla Sky, you will guess the signifiers hinting lucid dreams and the nightmares to follow used within the first ten minutes of the film. If you’ve seen Lost, you will get the whole Alice in Wonderland trip down the tunnel (there’s also the Lost Season 2 score reproduced just to re-emphasise the homage). If you’ve seen Hostel, you will get an idea about this dangerous cult that targets people and makes them sign a telephone directory-thick-contract book, which if you’ve seen Bedazzled, you would connect with the deal he made with the Devil. If you’ve seen Mullholland Dr., you will get an idea of the signifiers employed and be able to deconstruct why Ayesha Takia is Annie and Anjali (who he wants her to be and who she really is compared to who she was and who she becomes in Mullholland Dr.) and so on…
Hence your success in deconstruction of the film is directly proportional to how many films you have seen that Anurag has. There is a good chance that, given that K has seen many films than the average J.
The fact that he’s further coded the film to include a personal parallel with his life and the film industry (by equating smoking to radical ideas that the system has asked him to quit to ensure the financial health of his producers and family and inside jokes/references to writer Abbas Tyrewala) only adds to the number of signifiers and metaphors used in creating the abstraction with some of them not quite fitting the context.
As a result of this semiotic diarrhea, No Smoking is reduced to video graffiti drawn by a disturbed individual after repeated visits to his video library, thanks to his movie addiction. The more the signifiers, the more sketchy and amateur the artistry.
The extra ‘drags’ in No Smoking kill you before it all kicks in.
Moral of the story, K: Now that you know that this kind of smoking is injurious to your health and soul, hopefully, you will keep in mind what you need to light it up. An audience. And, a match would really help. Strike to connect. Illuminate.