Friday, August 29, 2008

Mumbai Meri Jaan

Yogesh Vinayak Joshi, the writer, must be someone who has genuine empathy to understand different lines of thoughts and consequent actions. He refrains from passing judgments but lets the movie send a message through its subtle dialogues and amazing body language of the characters. Of course, for this, the credit must be shared with co-screenplay writer Upendra Sidhaye and director Nishikant Kamat.

Mumbai Meri Jaan brings to you five very humane characters: Tukaram Patil (Paresh Rawal), Suresh (Kay Kay Menon), Nikhil (R. Madhavan), Roopali (Soha Ali Khan) and Thomas (Irrfan Khan). These are people in whom you may recognize the hawaldar standing near the pan shop, the youths drinking tea and biscuits at a kitli, your well-earning thoughtful friend with a clear set of rights and wrongs, an ambitious young media person and the roadside tea vendor you seldom look at for more than thirty seconds. They all come alive and confide in us with a touching simplicity in Mumbai Meri Jaan.

The film follows the lives of these five characters beginning the morning of the blasts to a week post the havoc of death and doubt. But in the end, the things discussed in Mumbai Meri Jaan are simple - how a man grapples with his way of life in an age that is enveloped in prejudice, doubt, inequality and extravagance?

These questions become all the louder after the Mumbai train blasts of July 11, 2006.

Paresh Raval is brilliant. His gentle, prodding good humour is delicately dressed with irony and sarcasm. His portrayal of a senior constable is perhaps the voice of many like him who slog in government services, become part of the red tape and have their own bitter regrets and reasons for the same. Kamat, plays his underling who is a green horn in the bureaucratic juggernaut and finds it difficult to digest the senselessness of it all. In his patient, good humoured chaffing of the young constable, Raval conveys many a poignant things in a tone that is unjudgemental and rational.

Thomas, the coffee-vendor played by Irrfan Khan conveys it all with his eyes. There is a blatant contrast between his frugal existence and his mute witnessing of the splurge of excess. His matter of fact resignation brings on screen a sense of disquiet, perhaps even a taunt to the well-fed multiplex audience. Thomas is the face of the vast divide of Indian economy. Watch out for his expressions when the mobile is thrown and crushed beneath the wheels.

Suresh (Kay Kay Menon) is a man filled to the brim with prejudice. You must have seen such people, you may be one of them. Though his reconciliation with secularism is a wee bit drastic, the story does its best to send across a message in the short time that a film offers. His character is detailed and sometimes his dialogues edge on dry humour. At least I had a good laugh at the Mohammad Rafi bit. The reason for his staunchness has been given cleverly in the scene where his father passionately discourses about Hinduism in their small flat.

Roopali’s character (Soha Ali Khan) has portrayed in precise words and scenes the irritation we all feel on the sensationalism of the Indian Television media. My rants in this post are now redundant. Mumbai Meri Jaan is dot on in conveying how mediocre television media has become today.

Nikhil (R. Madhavan) is one of those few young professionals who choose to stay back in India in the face of lucrative opportunities to rush abroad. His convictions falter after the train blasts. Perhaps the choice he makes is clear when he boards the train again.

Mumbai Meri Jaan is worth investing in a CD if the film is off your theatres by now.

-Gauri Gharpure
August 29, 2008