A sextet of thugs plans a bank robbery in the very glossy, but hollow, `Kaante`.
It`s no secret that director Sanjay Gupta is a fan of Hollywood -- his `Khauff`, for instance, was a `desi` version of `The Juror` -- but in reworking Quentin Tarantino`s `Reservoir Dogs` as `Kaante`, he doesn`t just borrow his storyline from the West. He also makes use of a full-fledged `firang` crew and goes berserk with their technology.
Every moment in the first half of the film is from the look-how-cool-this-shot-is school of filmmaking. People don`t simply walk; t-h-e-y w-a-l-k i-n s-l-o-w m-o-t-i-o-n. There`s no invisible editing; it`s always jump cuts or dissolves or time-lapse imagery. (Imagine John Woo in hyperdrive and you`ll get the picture!)
`Kaante` is, without a doubt, an awesome technical achievement -- Kurt Brabbee`s cinematography and Gregor Narholz`s background score are standouts -- but you cannot help wishing that some of this relentless assault on your senses had been replaced with some solid, old-fashioned storytelling.
A crucial set piece in this tale of six hoods who plan one retirement-worthy caper is a bank robbery. Which means the audience should tense up about whether or not these guys will pull this off, right?
Fuhgeddaboutit! With the constant cutting away to the next fancy angle, you`ll be lucky just to follow what`s actually happening on screen. (The director, with his Hollywood fixation, could have at least studied the bank job in Michael Mann`s `Heat`, for an object lesson on how razzle-dazzle can coexist with infinite tension.)
This style-over-substance philosophy extends to the characters too, with each of the six being given a striking facial feature. Mahesh Manjrekar has bleached blonde hair. Lucky Ali`s barely-there stubble contrasts with the clean-shaven look of the baby-faced Kumar Gaurav (who, by the way, still looks like he could play Bunty in `Love Story`). Beards come in all flavours, from Amitabh Bachchan`s untamed full-white to Sanjay Dutt`s thuggish goatee to Suniel Shetty`s pencil-line designer variety.
This is all very good, but how much better would it have been had a similar fuss been made about their motivations for the heist? Each player gets one perfunctorily-written scene explaining why -- a dying spouse here, a retarded sister there -- when precious screen time is spent in song-and-dance inanities, as when the uniformly 40-plus, supposedly cold-blooded sextet celebrates the night before the big job whooping around like frat boys.
Luckily, the second half -- with its Tarantinoesque patter woven around the realization that there is an undercover cop in the group who may have betrayed the rest -- comes alive for a while with everything (edge, tension, humour, a genuine sense of drama) that was missing earlier.
The music video frenzy dies down a bit and the actors finally come into their own. The rough-and-tough Sanjay Dutt is superb, his real-life persona appearing to lend an extra something to his performance. The unconventionally cast Mahesh Manjrekar also scores in an over-the-top, crowd-pleasing characterisation. The rest are not bad, but Bachchan, so perfect as the mastermind behind the crime in `Aankhen`, seems miscast here amidst much younger and much more virile hoodlum types.
A major plus in `Kaante` is Anand Raaj Anand`s full-blooded score. Each song -- from the chartbusting `Ishq Samundar` to the melancholic ``Rama Re` to the erotic `Maahive` (which, with its nightclub setting and blonde dancers, reminds you of the `Pyaar Do Pyaar Lo` number in `Janbaaz`, minus the exploding egg yolks) -- is perfectly suited to the needs of the moment even if the moments themselves, like Suniel Shetty`s moping around his girlfriend when cops are looking for him, are sometimes gratuitously written in.
Another huge contribution comes from Milap Jhaveri`s street-lingo-and-obscenity-strewn dialogues. `Asli baap kaun hai maa bhi nahin jaanti`-type humour abounds, perfectly complementing the atmosphere, and these dialogues would have worked even better had the film been set in India. Why should a story about Indian thugs --who visit Hindi-song-playing nightclubs and exhibit a very Bollywoodian sentimentality (Sanjay offers Suniel tips on the latter`s love life) -- be set in L.A., necessitating translations (`Answer me!` followed immediately by `Jawaab de!`) while white folks are being addressed?
The final portions that deal with the unmasking of the traitor are fairly tense and excitingly violent, but again very self-indulgent. Where one close-up of a dying man would push home the point, we get three, and what would have been empathetic turns irritating.
It`s refreshing to see a big-budget film that isn`t about the romantic mishaps of a Raj-Rahul-Rohit, but the likes of `Kaante` are disappointing in their own way. The advance hype suggests something that will change the face of Bollywood and all we get is a more-jazzed-up-than-usual retread of Hollywood.
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