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.
kool review sudhi..!!
Lighters came before matches mate!
“The cigarette lighter was invented before the match. In 1816, a German chemist named J.W. Dobereiner devised a way of automatically igniting a jet of hydrogen. Unfortunately, it required powdered platinum to act as a catalyst.”
The first useful thing I learnt out of this whole No smoking exercise. Thank you!! 😀
Who would’ve guessed!
You had me there on the technicalities… but there’s another small technicality that provides for matches to stake their claim for seniority…
“The first lighter, Döbereiner’s lamp, was invented by Johann Wolfgang Döbereiner in 1823. It stayed in production until 1880.The first “match” was created in 1805. The first friction match, which can be ignited on virtually any surface (i.e. fabric) was created in 1827, 4 years after the lighter.”
Thank you for that comment though… I got to check up on trivia. 🙂
nice review man …
sudhish, have you seen kathradu thamizh, please watch that movie and write a review too. haven’t seen any tamil movie reviews around here for a while now. thanks
Anurag himself has admitted that he overestimated his target audience’s intelligence. The only problem is, he could have gotten away with this movie in a country like the USA, where Vanilla Sky was a hit, if not a blockbuster. But over here, our critics and our audiences have been numbed beyond hope by the family orgy movies produced by Chopras, Johars, and Barjatyaas. If a critic in India can marvel about the cinematic brilliance behind movies like Vanilla Sky and Minority Report, why not No Smoking? Just because the director has vehemently spoken against the so-called mainstream movie makers and media.
And Anurag, being the naive film maker that he is, called Indian media immature, that too just a few days before the film’s release. Seems like Indian media has responded promptly to his allegation. If you look at the review section of any popular website or magazine, it’s all dissing for No Smoking. (Excluding your review, which I thought was fair)
It’s okay to criticize a movie and examine the good and bad things about it, but then our film reviewers have gone over the board and dissed both the film and the film maker, which is completely uncalled for. Just check out the Hindustan Times review. You’ll understand the reason behind my anger.
Granted, Anurag has made a movie which can be comprehended by only a few, but then he deserves much more than what he has got in the name of reviews.
PS: I enjoyed the movie.
Though it is sad that this film has not stuck a chord with you – i am alarmed at these remarks
“…. The more the signifiers, the more sketchy and amateur the artistry.”
Why would a critic ever end up criticizing an artist ? Satyajit Ray says “in order to judge an artist one has to look at the sum total of all his works” (paraphrased from “Our Films/Their Films”) and going by that Anurag’s past work, he has been nothing but spectacular – Satya, Kaun, Yuva, Guru, Water, Black Friday and now dare i add “No Smoking” (and don’t pin him on Shakalaka Boom Boom ! ). If anything you (or Hindu) should really be standing behind an artist who is way ahead of his contemporaries.
I do understand that the film is far from being perfect but there is no denying the fact that’s its also far ahead of pretty much every junk that holly/bolly/tolly/kolly wood throws at us and this alone I feel warrants our attention.
I have my own ramblings on the “fractured” masterpiece – if you do have time read it @
Your review has a subversive tone and it seems to me like a personal attack on Anurag. Its very intelligently written that it doesnt seem so.The review literally falls when you say..’One that will appeal to a select few. Could be immediate family. Friends. Pet’. If you cant relate to the personal motifs in the film then why do u write the review in the first place?. you go on to say..’Hence your success in deconstruction of the film is directly proportional to how many films you have seen that Anurag has’- this displays your knowledge and exhibits subversively that you have seen many films.You only see ‘cinema’, you dont seem to get in deep into what a filmmaker has conveyed through that cinema..yes! No smoking has many flaws ..it has many metaphors..but you review doesnt get anywhere close to film to convey it as an ‘experience’. its just ‘words’ words’ and words’and we have to say wow!Sudish!- do U think that people who have understood and appreciated the film have seen the list of films you have given? please dont show off!..watch a film, if you dont seem to get it..its better not to write a review..your’s is not a ‘review’..its just fumes that has no fire! that pretends to be so.
been meaning to watch katradhu tamil. hopefully soon.
well, sitting in chennai, i didn’t get to read many of these reviews you are talking about but i think someone who got rave reviews from the press for his first film unanimously shouldnt sulk when they’ve been bad to him. it’s all part of the game.
and as far as comparisons go, vanilla sky or mullholland dr., all these films had a certain simplicity in their abstraction that made you admire these films. no smoking is overdone video grafitti, or semiotic diarrohea as I mentioned.
but yes, it is an interesting film nonetheless.
interesting comparisons there in your review. enjoyed reading it.
my approach to film criticism is almost textbook… it studies an artistic expression as a form of communication.. which would mean i first understand what he’s tried to express (though I wish I had turned blind to this part because the film surely is more intelligent than him) thru his interviews, blog posts, official communication… posters, trailers… and then, how this is perceived by his target audience… in this case, the multiplex audience. and the communication or the expression itself in terms of form and content by study of syntax and semiotics used and finally use these three perspectives (sender, receivers and the message itself) to understand why the noise (the difference between sender’s intention and audience perception).
Reading some of the director’s explanation to the constructs used, i would say he messed up because he does not understand some of the signifiers he has used. For example, his “two cents” comparison to “shagun” which in India has its own context. For instance, the metaphor of gas chambers works against the film because smoking actually gases passive smokers in the family… and hence comparing the Baba to Hitler or the system in this place quite does not suit the context because Jews did not gas their family members or cause them harm even symbolically. Get it?
And this sort of employment of signifiers out of context has happened because he has borrowed signifiers from his influences without quite understanding their context…
Using the word plagiarism will be cruel because he has borrowed liberally and the fact that he has given it his own spin…but this does not change the fact that what he has done is created a Frankenstein’s monster… by employing various signifiers from different films without most of them not quite blending together.
Art too can be studied like any expression… i just studied his piece of “art” and made my observations.
i assure you i dont know anurag nor do i have anything against him personally.
in fact, i think he is one of the exciting filmmakers of our times. Black Friday is testimony to that.
I’m glad you think im showing off because that’s a subversive insult now isn’t it. it means you believe I have seen many fine films. I wish. 🙂
About No Smoking, you are welcome to form your opinions and celebrate the Emperor’s new clothes.
After having advised me, I hope you listen to yourself too and not assume you are more intelligent than others. While at it, you could do yourself a favour and check that tone.
And yes, the film is an interesting experience no doubt… though a little painful for the majority in the audience who had spent over 200 bucks to watch this laboured construction of abstraction.
Personally though, I did recommend it to friends. And yes, thank you for your feedback.
Thanks for the reply and Thanks for that advice..I checked my tone and felt it was ruthless and honest,though not intelligent enough.
I said ‘personal’ because i found most of the critics bashed anurag kashyap..some way or the other..ignoring all the merits of the film in the name of ‘stupidity’ or ‘bizzare’ aspect..or because they don’t understand the film.. if people don’t understand, they get irritated.
I even thought if Anurag was of some foreign descent he would have received a completely different response like ” well…this isn’t for the pop corn audience..but one could smell the brilliance,to feel it better- watch it many times’
I agree that the film is overdone-fragmented-doesn’t give space to connect them through the world of the audience, at the same time, one should also understand that its a personal film, it has a subconscious spirit of the filmmaker himself.so one cannot review the film in the parameters set for the ‘mainstream’ audience, it needs some attention before its written. I feel though the film didn’t get evolved with maturity, it did have really promising moments. something i haven’t seen in indian screen excepting in film festivals.
Iam only a bit upset and angry that most of the critics ignored the film, otherwise it wud’ve done better in box office, people dint get a chance to see it.
To me..its the most interesting(with all its flaws), entertaining, and ‘different'(in the true sense of it) film to come in 2007, so far ..apart from Johnny gaddar and black friday. I beleive ‘No smoking’ will be called an important cult film from india in five years to come.
Thankyou once again.