It’s a fact… Cinema and cricket are pursued with religious fervor in India. Cinema connects us. Cinema unites us. Cinema is indeed the predominant influence on our lives. Cinema is, without doubt, an integral part of every movie lover… Indian cinema, which completes its 100th year this year [RAJA HARISHCHANDRA, the first full-length feature-film made by Dadasaheb Phalke, was released in 1913], ought to be commemorated. What better way than four avant garde film-makers combining forces to pay respect to cinema — Karan Johar, Zoya Akhtar, Dibakar Banerjee and Anurag Kashyap. Backed by Viacom18, the four prolific film-makers set out to narrate stories that are unconventional, borrowed from real life, about the common man. Also, each of those stories has a reference to Indian cinema/stars.
The four stories in BOMBAY TALKIES — made at a stipulated budget of Rs 1.5 cr each, the duration not exceeding 20/25 minutes — are entwined in one film. Of course, experiments like this, when one or multiple raconteurs join hands to narrate distinctive stories, aren’t new. Recall DARNA MANA HAI [2003; Prawaal Raman narrated a series of six stories in one film], DARNA ZAROORI HAI [2006; seven directors narrating seven different stories], SALAAM-E-ISHQ [2007; six love stories helmed by Nikhil Advani] and DUS KAHANIYAAN [2007; ten stories narrated by six directors]â€¦
A film like BOMBAY TALKIES gives an opportunity to film-makers to step out of their comfort zone and try to create something novel. It’s a podium that does not necessarily cater to the box-office or the diaspora alone. Also, it helps the film-maker to tap the latent talent that he/she possesses, but it’s never nurtured due to commercial constraints. The challenge lies in not merely narrating a story within a budget, but also narrating a tale effectively encompassing myriad emotionsâ€¦
Plot: All’s well between an urban couple [Randeep Hooda, Rani Mukerji] till the wife meets a colleague [Saqib Saleem] at work. It changes their lives forever.
Think of Karan Johar and you can’t help but recall larger than life movies, music, dances, emotions, drama, grandiose sets, stunning locales, chic outfitsâ€¦ But Karan does an about-turn with the story in BOMBAY TALKIES. Of course, in films like KABHI ALVIDA NAA KEHNA and MY NAME IS KHAN, Karan did make an attempt to push the envelope, but with the short story in BOMBAY TALKIES, he narrates a story that no film-maker has endeavored to narrate on the Hindi screen. I was in a state of disbelief because I never expected Karan to narrate an account with such flourish in those 20 odd minutes. Karan reinvents himself here!
The story revolves around three characters and each of them delivers bravura performances. Rani is efficient, as always. Randeep is finally getting the characters that do justice to his talent. But it is Saqib Saleem who stuns you with a dazzling performance. Kudos to Karan for taking a giant leap as a storyteller and depicting a harsh reality with brilliance!
Plot: An actor [Nawazuddin Siddiqui] is struggling to make a living. While watching a film shoot one day, he gets an opportunity that helps him prove himself to his daughter.
Based on Satyajit Ray’s short story ‘Patol Babu, Film Star’, Dibakar changes the setting from middle class Kolkata to middle class Dadar in Mumbai. With this story, Dibakar attempts to underline the actuality that personal contentment cannot be weighed against monetary incentives. In the end, the contentment on Nawaz’s face, his body language as he narrates a story to his daughter, the cheerfulness he radiates seems so bona fide. You must hand it to Dibakar for transporting to the fore a story that makes you reflect on the various decisions of your past.
There are two vital performers in this story — Nawazuddin and Sadashiv Amrapurkar. Nawazuddin is brilliant all through, specifically in the sequence when he rushes home to his daughter to narrate a new story. It’s indeed a pleasure to watch the supremely talented Sadashiv Amrapurkar after a hiatus.
Plot: A young man [Vineet Kumar Singh] arrives in Mumbai from Allahabad to fulfill his ailing father’s [Sudhir Pande] last wish.
Anurag is known for pushing the boundaries, for thinking out of the box, for swimming against the tideâ€¦ most importantly, he’s known for encouraging new, deserving talent. Anurag too does an about-turn and makes a film that’s in sharp contrast to the ‘dark films’ he’s synonymous with. The story he narrates evokes myriad emotions — it makes you chuckle, it makes you feel sympathetic towards the millions of hopeful who arrive in the city, it makes you moist-eyed when something drastic transpires during the train journey. With this film, Anurag should silence the naysayers who feel he restricts himself to confined themes only.
Vineet Kumar Singh is a talent to watch out for. The vulnerability of an outsider when he arrives in a metropolis like Mumbai is projected radiantly by this young actor. Sudhir Pande is first-rate. But it is Amitabh Bachchan’s super cameo that adjoins credence to the sequence of events.
Plot: A kid [Naman Jain] from a middle class family is captivated by an actress [Katrina Kaif]. He decides to break the rules of the society and chase his dreams.
Parents who thrust their condescending ambitions on their kids are not new for Bollywood. Zoya tackled a similar plot in LUCK BY CHANCE [recall Dimple Kapadia's character]. Now Zoya drives home a pertinent message through a kid here. The middle class setting, the defenselessness of the kids, the dilemma when parents decide what their kids ought to be when they grow upâ€¦ Zoya’s handling of the delicate moments stay with you. The usage of ‘My Name Is Sheela’ [from TEES MAAR KHAN] is the icing on the cake and the kid’s moves are amazing.
While Ranvir Shorey enacts the part of the disciplinarian father to perfection, it’s the performance of the two kids — Naman and Khushi Dubey — that are most rewarding. Naman in particular is the star of the story. Katrina Kaif appears in a sparkling cameo.
The film concludes with a tribute to Indian cinema, which brings as many as twenty top stars together on the same platform [choreography: Vaibhavi Merchant].
On the whole, BOMBAY TALKIES is one of those infrequent movies wherein you get to eyeball the superior efforts of four top notch film-makers in less than two hours. This reality alone makes the film a compelling watch, while the superior performances and absorbing themes that the movie prides itself in only serve as an icing on the cake. This celebration of cinema is a must watch!