Thursday, May 24, 2007

Ek Chalis Ki Last Local: Pulp Fiction before Sunrise

Cast: Abhay Deol, Neha Dhupia
Director: Sanjay Khanduri
Genre: Black Comedy
Storyline: A call centre executive who misses the last local (train) ends up making two and a half crores in two and a half hours.
Bottomline: Tarantino-meets-Coen Brothers outside Kurla Station

Hindi cinema arrives at yet another brand new destination this year with ‘Ek Chalis Ki Last Local.’

For starters, since the story can be written at the back of a platform ticket (or your movie ticket), the filmmakers decide to put it right on the poster. Because, it’s not about the story as much as it is about the story-telling.

So even before you enter the hall, thanks to the poster, you know that Abhay Deol makes two and a half crores in that many hours. Okay, how?

The film moves in almost real-time, after the opening scene introduces the protagonist walking off with the bagful of money at 0410 hours. The clock at the station then rewinds back to the moment he misses the train. 0140 hours. Yes, the numbers have reversed his luck too.

In no time, debutante director Sanjay Khanduri establishes our down-on-luck hero, Nilesh, more like Mr. Zero with 67 rupees in his wallet, with no means to go home to Vikhroli. If missing the train wasn’t bad enough, he finds himself in a sticky situation literally with a bubblegum on his bench, gets thrown out of the station, finds himself without an umbrella during a storm and no autorickshaw willing to take him home. Nothing seems to be going right until he bumps into the mysterious Madhu (Neha Dhupia).

Ek Chalis… starts off like a Richard Linklater tribute (with the romantic knot of a couple having to spend the night, walking around the city, till the train in the morning), but then this is no Vienna or Paris. This is Mumbai, home to friendly neighbourhood gangsters, good-hearted eunuchs, trigger-happy cops and dons who are into kink.

The dark comedy, then takes the ‘Is Raat Ki Subah Nahin’ route, once in a while reminding you of ‘Waisa Bhi Hota Hai’.

Sanjay outscores ‘Is Raat Ki’ and ‘Waisa Bhi’ by successfully marrying Tarantino’s brand of stylistic violence, razor-sharp lines laced with pop-culture references and wickedly funny dark humour to the realistic absurdity of the kidnapping-going-wrong associated with the Coen Brothers signature, in an authentic, contemporary Indian milieu, without really moving too far away from the romanticism of Hindi films. The free-flowing narrative here walks many worlds, all in a night, quite effortlessly.

Because of the late night setting and real-time narrative, the film does make you restless here and there but overall, it is a largely fulfilling experience, if you appreciate the offbeat.
Interestingly bizarre. You may actually like it if you go with an open mind. More than anything, watch it for one big reason: To support irreverent cinema.


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