Shakespeare meets 'Rangeela' in this fiercely originally, sassy and often intelligent drama about a wannabe Bollywood star's run-in with the underworld.
The first thing that strikes you while watching this charming concoction of cinema and the world of gangsters is the language.
E. Niwas doesn't resort to any of the cliches associated with street-smart cinema. The guy at the centre of the drama is a face you can easily miss in the crowd.
That's the primary charm of viewing ' (MNIAG).Your pleasure at watching the dreams of a cocky bartender morph into a Bollywood success story is never marred by the inherent stardom of the guy playing the dreamer.
Nikhil Diwvedi is the archetypal middleclass 'tapori'. A male version of Antara Mali in 'Main Madhuri Dixit Banna Chahti Hoon' without the over-the-top hamming. Nikhil's portrayal of the cinematic 'wanna shine' works because he doesn't resemble anyone we've seen before.
Niwas' tongue-in-cheek narrative takes care of the rest. He audaciously brings Shakespeare's Julius Caesar into play.
Creating a conflict between the ancient sacrosanct art of Shakespeare and the purely indigenous kitschy language of Bollywood's pop art is as tough a dream to realise as some guy called Anthony Gonsalves trying to compete with the Khans and Kapoors of Bollywood.
'Change your name to Anthony Kapoor. If Shahid Kapoor can work so can this name,' suggests a cheesy Bollywood wheeler-dealer, played by the talented but under-utilised Manoj Pahwa, in the bar where Anthony plays out a large part of his celluloid dreams.
The bar, with its thousand sweaty whispers, sets the stage for Niwas' 'noire satire' (to coin a new genre for this ultra-cool, sometimes-flabby but never-frail and certainly never-fail film).
And if you thought Sriram Raghavan was cleverly noire-ish in 'Johnny Gaddar', you've to admit Niwas is endearingly straightforward in his rather complex screen plans of bringing modern day gangsters into the same range of vision as the wannabe who dreams of courting Priyanka">Priyanka Chopra">Priyanka">Priyanka Chopra, chats endlessly with his father's grave and even asks his dead father to welcome the sweet sobbing heroine's dead mother.
The situations are refreshingly untried. The plot avoids the potholes by staying ahead of the cliches, creating tempting pockets of a world where danger and satire play blood brothers without getting into each other's way.
More than a satire on the dreams of street-smart people, the film is a story of a mentor and a boy he picks up from the streets. This part of the plot, ladies and gentleman, seem to be brought to you by Martin Scorsese's 'The Departed'. But all resemblance between Jack Nicholson and Matt Damon in Scorsese's film and Pavan Malhotra's troubled tormented mentoring of Nikhil in the movie could just be a coincidence.
MNIAG is a film you want to embrace. It has a commodious comic outer layering that fits rather well into the theme of playing out a Bollywood dream.
Some sequences stand out for their sheer inventiveness. Watch Anthony audition for the country made Julius Caesar in front of a Mira Nair-like NRI filmmaker played by Lilette Dubey, who is at her sexiest best.
The way the shots are composed and cut to bring Anthony's personal relationships into his interpretation of the Shakespearean script shows there's no dearth of writing skills in Bollywood today.
What one misses are those interludes that would have taken Niwas's film to a more serious exploration of the Christian community's isolation from the mainstream.
This is no 'Albert Pinto Ko Gussa Kyon Aata Hai', not only because Niwas pitches the narrative at a far less political far more entertaining level, but also because Anthony Gonsalves ko gussa aata hi nahin!
Here is a character who is so well-adjusted to his struggle to achieve his dreams that he doesn't allow himself to feel the angst of being an orphan selling alcohol to gangsters and other anti-socials in a bar where neon signs flash despair to only those want to be despondent.
Nikhil gets into the skin of his character and emerges as quite an engaging boy next door. But the most powerful performance comes from Pavan. As the boy's criminally inclined mentor, Pavan pitches in passionately, squirting the sometimes-scattered narrative with a cementing sensitivity.
Anupam Kher as Pavan's guru is brilliant as the devout clan-head. But one wishes there was more of Mithun Chakraborty as Nikhil's surrogate father. True confessions in the church melt into a sporadic display of martial arts in the climax. A sketchy character!
By then the wannabe star's bonding with the gangsters has already met with a bloodied nemesis.
Far better than it outwardly seems and with far more resilient powers than most films about gang wars and other wars fought from within, MNIAG deserves a dekko for bringing us debutant Nikhil, who jumps out of the chocolate box to claim a piece of fame without window dressings.
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