Lucky are we, the famished cineastes, to get two films that merit more than a passing glance within one week - Rajat Kapoor's 'Mithya' and Rohit Jugraj's 'Superstar'.
Alas, no luck for the poor and damned Bollywood struggler VK (Ranvir Shorey) in Kapoor's mellow, modern, mythic and mildly majestic 'Mithya'.
Ranvir, who specialises in playing urban losers, plays the kind of Kafkaesque hero whose shoes you'd never like to be in. Unless you're a sucker for misery, pain and doom.
Director Rajat Kapoor pieces together a melancholic, deeply metaphorical and yet straightforward tale of moral redemption.
'Mithya' plants its two feet in the outwardly incompatible worlds of Bollywood and the underworld. These come together in 'Mithya' in an unexpected synthesis of lyricism and brutality.
At heart, 'Mithya' is an intriguing love story situated in the heart of darkness where light penetrates through the simplicity and goodness that we believe exists at the heart of mankind. Goodness lives at the end though the well-meaning protagonist doesn't survive.
The humanism that underlines the bristling barbarism of the cult of gangsterism is what supplants Kapoor's narrative with an enchanting integrity.
Not all of the material that goes into telling the junior artiste's journey from struggle to power to annihilation is equally meritorious. Some portions of the narrative, for instance the longish boat ride from Mumbai to Goa when Ranvir is taken captive by the gangsters, loses its grip and gives us a chance to lose our attention.
The other spell of inclement weather in the capricious plot occurs when Ranvir kidnaps his look-alike's kids and spends quality time with them at the good-hearted moll's aunt's place.
Really, the baggy portions are much too self-indulgent to belong in a film that breaks the mould so freely and feelingly. The director quickly cottons on to the captivating tragedy that underlines the struggler's strange and madding adventures in gangland.
There's the aging wizened head honcho (Naseeruddin Shah) and his smouldering moll (Neha Dhupia) who play a vital part in Ranvir's journey from anonymity to doom. These characters are almost cartoonish in their telltale characterisations.
And yet 'Mithya' has the audacity and the creative energy, the sense of wonderment at life's eccentric twists and turns, to make Ranvir's journey an emblem of life's most lingering lessons learnt in ways that are terrifying in their finality.
Especially evocative are Ranvir's scenes in his look-alike's home where the dead gangster's mother (Suhasini Mulay), wife (Irawati Harshe) and two kids suddenly come into unexpected attention and affection from the father of the family.
The plot weaves in and out of these dislocated lives, not quite knitting the perfect pastiche of pain passion and perversity that we expected, but getting close to its intentions.
'Mithya' is one of those remarkable films that are driven more passionately by intent and purpose than the actual rendering of the creator's vision.
As in 'Superstar', where Kunal Khemu's double role invested the plot with intimate energy, in 'Mithya' Ranvir carries the show with brilliance. His interpretation of a common man's uncommon adventures is so endearingly befuddled and motivated by an intuitive comprehension of the loser's language that you're left looking at an actor who completes assumes and owns his character's world.
The sequence where the producer Tinu Anand is dumbfounded by the ganglord (actually the struggling actor) turning a business meeting into an impromptu audition, is a splendid example of how far this film stretches the theme of illusion and reality without snapping the link between the two.
Ranvir gets outstanding support from the supporting cast. Neha and Irawati are portraits of sensuality and femininity done in colours that enrich the frames through understatement.
But did Dhupia have to be so obviously dressed for her moll's part in a film where the clothes do not define the characters and their psychological design?
Another worthwhile performance comes from Harsh Chhaya as the murdered gangster's brother. Watch him in the scene where he's baffled by the replacement-look-alike's enthusiasm at the gangster's kids' parents-teacher meeting.
And the always-watchable Vinay Pathak sportingly pitches in a supporting performance as a henchman.
'Mithya' is a mellowed-down account of a fierce gangland rivalry. But none of the actors are seen fighting for a voice or a space. In a world gone awry and propelled by moral tensions, the characters fit in without pressure.
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