This Post Contains Spoilers.
After Logik’s comment on my previous post, I decided to watch Paanch. It was one of those movies I’ve always wanted to watch, but not finding a copy online in the past put the idea out of my head. I didn’t want to watch it because I expected it to be awesomeness personified; it was more of curiosity – it wasn’t allowed to be released, and recently, I’d watched Anurag Kashyap’s movie for Star Bestsellers – Last Train to Mahakali, which starred Kay Kay Menon, and was rather impressed.
The movie starts off as expected – trippy opening credits – chaotic visuals of Mumbai(?) streets from a vehicle, as shot from a moving vehicle. And then the whole dope and rock n’ roll bit.
The story moves slowly. Until the Kidnapping.
There are five main characters, as the title suggests. It’s mainly told from the point of view of Murgi (Aditya Srivastava), who doesn’t have much to do in the movie until the end. The screen is occupied more by the cowardly Pondy, and the explosive, Satanic, edgy, pure evil Luke (which, midway through the movie, I wonder if it’s a shortened version of Lucifer. One of Kay Kay Menon’s best performances, I’ll say.), and the extremely loyal Joy. And in the second half, by the street-smart money-minded promiscuous Shiuli (Tejaswini Kolhapure).
Nothing redeeming about any of them. They are portrayed as being all about vices, no single endearing characteristic about any of them. No backstories that justify their behaviour. In another movie, you would have Shiuli’s promiscuity being explained by showing a flashback of her parents’ divorce, or being abused, or some such. But not here. The characters are unapologetically what they are.
Long story short, they have a band. And they need money for a demo tape. One of their friends suggests they ‘kidnap’ him and ask his father for ransom. And in one of his many fits of rage, Luke beats him to death. The police get suspicious. Luke gets edgier. Pondy gets cowardlier. They decide to rob the friend’s father. He walks in on them cleaning out his money. They kill him. His policeman pal finds out and confronts them. He is killed too, as is the constable with him. Soon, all four of them get frustrated with everything. They drown Luke. They turn themselves in.
So far, so good. If not sympathize or identify with the characters, you grok them, their motivations, their every next move. They are not deep, or with multiple layers, but that’s the whole point. The movie seems so far like a delicious study of anger, of frustration, of inflicting psychological pain, of forgetting all about right and wrong, of forgetting all about consequences. It is delectably trippy. It doesn’t tell a story so far; it presents to you a collection of fascinating characters together, like a social experiment or something – some points almost bring to mind the Stanford Prison Experiment. Nothing is explicitly said – it’s there for you to see, in the graffiti, in the way they speak, in their body language, in the bloodied dolls with severed heads in Luke’s room.
And at this point, Anurag Kashyap slips. Trips. And makes this your regular movie.
So it turns out Luke is not dead, and it was all a plan hatched by Murgi (yes, pun intended, you can laugh), Luke and Shiuli. And then the cunning woman pits them against each other, and everyone ends up dead and she decamps with the cash, becomes a popstar.
That killed it for me. That really did. The meandering first three-quarters of the movie prepared me for an ending, where, possibly, everyone dies, or where some die and the rest live on…. but not one where people take advantage of each other. If that was to be the highlight, it could have been done in so many other colourful, entertaining, psychedelic ways, keeping with the rest of the movie. There could have been such an undercurrent throughout the movie, if not through Shiuli, through some other character. You begin to feel the last quarter of the movie was ghost-directed by the spotboy or something.
And why was this banned? Because it showed the bad guy coming out smelling of roses? Flimsy. I think Dhoom probably had more sex and violence than this flick.
My verdict: It has its moments. Good dialogues [There’s this one bit where Murgi and Pondy try their hand at waiting tables, and there’s this frustrating customer who gives a long list of specs about his omelette. To which Murgi says “Murgi ka naam Champa hai, chalega?”] , great acting [As a friend said, Kay Kay has enough in him to have Mogambo running scared]. And the music, one of Vishal Bharadwaj’s best. All the songs are good to listen to, especially the jazzish Kaisa Hai Sheher by Dominique. Along with the visuals, it all comes together to make a trippy watch. A lot of promise, sadly shattered by the incongruent dénouement. Recommended watch. Out of Paanch, I’ll give it Teen. But only because I don’t give full ratings to any movie, and hence everything is suitably downgraded.
PS: The only version of Paanch that is out is a pirated version of the preview copy. Don’t feel too bad about watching that… Anurag Kashyap himself doesn’t much mind. Check out this byte from him: here.