Tuesday, July 03, 2012

An encounter with excess


(Published in The Sunday Guardian, on 1 July 2012, retrieved from http://www.sunday-guardian.com/masala-art/an-encounter-with-excess)

Cast: Sonu Sood, Naseeruddin Shah, Neha Dhupia, Vinay Pathak, Rajendra Gupta
Director: Kabeer Kaushik
Rating: 2 stars
Mumbai. Encounter cops. Informers. Dance bars. Politicians. Intrigues. Throw all that together, and with an intelligent storyline, you could have a pacy film with gripping narration. This movie has a wonderful cast, with even minor roles – with the exception of the wooden Neha Dhupia’s – appearing tailor-made. However, Maximum is one of those films that makes you think wistfully of what it could have been. It starts at an interesting time – 2003, when the police were becoming the heroes who snuffed out Mumbai’s gangsters – but ends in a mess of clichés.
Essentially, this is the story of the rivalry between two encounter cops – Pratap Pandit (Sonu Sood), an impulsive man whose adrenaline could and does land him in trouble, and Arun Inamdar (Naseeruddin Shah), a streetsmart old hand twelve years his senior. When a film has a palette this tiny, the composition must be exquisite and detailed enough to sustain interest. The problem here appears to be that the director doesn’t know his audience – he credits it with enough intelligence to figure out which celluloid character represents which real person, but assumes it is stupid enough to buy that cops can be P3Ps.
Strangely, a film whose hallmark is its understated narrative – a lovely segue has a cop pointing a gun at someone, followed by a woman washing red stains off a cloth – becomes video-game bloody. Trippy innovations, such as the use of animation, give way to hackneyed shots and hamming as it progresses.
There are too many subplots and asides for the film to handle – linguistic chauvinism, paparazzi culture, the workings of a news channel, the dons in the construction business, thugs and goons, informers, double-crossing, obsession with elite education, romance and parenting make for an ungainly mix. To its detriment, the film uses 26/11 as a crutch, and some commendable acting is lost in a tired storyline. The grammar of the film becomes weird, and there are several out-of-character moments that jar.
Then, there are the stereotypes – the rich brat, the wanton actress, the Mahabharat-quoting politician, the oily film producer, the eager journalist-activist. The sound design, so crucial in this stylised genre, is lazy, with random titillating numbers and grating stock tunes.
There are some great moments early on, and subtle humour is refreshingly injected into the film. But, somewhere, the story loses its way, and deceives the viewer.
The Verdict: Unless you, like me, have a fetish for watching hot Punjabis pull on sunglasses in slow-mo, you should probably give this a skip.

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