Director: Nishikant Kamat
Cast: Paresh Rawal, R.Madhavan, Kay Kay, Soha Ali Khan, Vijay Maurya
Storyline: One week in the life of Mumbaiites from different walks of life in the aftermath of the Mumbai blasts.
Bottomline: Glimpses of genius
Nishikant Kamat has to be among the most promising of our filmmakers today.
Mumbai Meri Jaan breaks your heart a few times, chokes you in fits and starts and is one of the most sincere films of our times.
Yes, it is a little overwritten, slow, disjointed and even gets a little repetitive but this is a solid attempt at introducing powerhouse drama through subtlety.
Ironically, the only parts that do not work are those where Kamat tries to use his cinematic licence to exaggerate for the sake of drama.
For instance, we understand Irrfan’s character lives on the fringes of the society, often ignored and insulted. Yet, well after establishing that, Kamat feels the need to show it visually and so he exaggerates to show him humiliated in front of his family for daring to walk into a multiplex and trying on perfume.
But then, how many Indian filmmakers have dared to handle a complex ensemble socio-political commentary film like Crash or Babel?
Though Mumbai is nowhere as subtle as Babel or as clever as Crash, Kamat’s film is all heart. It borrows the parallel-narratives-stitched-together structure of the Paul Haggis film and the ‘everything is connected’ thread of the Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu’s masterpiece and yet peoples it with characters that represent different walks of life in the countries cultural capital.
In the wake of the blasts, the state of the State is represented by a flawed, ineffective cop about to retire (Paresh Rawal in a career best) and a young policeman (Thank you again, Nagesh Kukunoor, for giving us Vijay Maurya) disillusioned with his role in the corrupt system.
The ideal conscientious citizen (R.Madhavan reprises his character from Kamat’s ‘Evano Oruvan’) loses it here too but at a completely, wholly believable level – he may just want to opt out of the system.
The also film takes us to the root of the issue – more than that of ideology or religion –public perception and the politics of vendetta (no one could’ve fit the bill better than Kay Kay Menon), the role of the media (Soha Ali Khan cries like she was born for this role) represented through a TV journalist who becomes the prime exhibit of the circus and the consequence of apathy and indifference towards the minority which could turn the most innocent man into a sadistic soul taking his revenge on the society (Irrfan Khan is reliably solid).
Mumbai Meri Jaan, thankfully, is not a rose-tinted perspective of a city that rose on its feet on the day of the blasts and its undying spirit (as the TV channels packaged it). The film is, in fact, a reality check. There are no easy solutions offered and the individual stories are resolved with credible doses of realism and hope.
Unlike his first film Dombivli Fast, Mumbai… is only border-line dark.
Now, there will always be art-lovers who would have liked this film to end on a stark, depressing note. But political filmmaking transcends something you put up for approval from art critics. By genre, it is for you to express what you have to say on the issue.
And Kamat so well sums it up in a cameo: “Terrorism is a part of our reality and our children will get used to it… Earlier tourists came to see the twin towers. Now, they come to see Ground Zero.”