Tuesday, July 03, 2012

Maximum Promises, to Deceive


(Published in The New Sunday Express, on 1 July 2012, retrieved from http://newindianexpress.com/entertainment/reviews/article555354.ece)



Cast: Sonu Sood, Naseeruddin Shah, Neha Dhupia, Vinay Pathak, Rajendra Gupta
Director: Kabeer Kaushik
Rating: 2 stars
When Maximum opens to a bloodied Sonu Sood, running alongside a train, you know the genre this film aspires to – the Mumbai noir that’s becoming so popular these days, a world of encounter cops, underworld dons, police informers, sleaze, slime, and corruption. Kabeer Kaushik’s Maximum follows the trodden paths of Anurag Kashyap’s Black Friday and Shimit Amin’s Ab Tak Chhappan, to which it is an obvious tribute-of-sorts, even incorporating its title into the dialogue.
The film opens in 2003, when dance bars were an integral part of Mumbai subculture, and when cops were becoming superheroes in the ilk of the FBI’s G-Men from the 1950s. Pratap Pandit (Sonu Sood) reports to Subodh Saab, who is in charge of the Crime Unit, while Arun Inamdar (Naseeruddin Shah) reports to Khanna, who is in charge of the Anti-Terrorism Unit. The “conflict of interest” between the top bosses, “played up by the media” as a minister points out, filters down to Pandit and Inamdar. They’re both impulsive, they both have fingers in several puddings, and they both hate each other.
In the same seat as the viewer is Ashwin Singh (Amit Sadh), a journalist who, in the five years the film spans, progresses from city reporter to prime time news anchor. Like the audience, he is on Pandit’s side, more or less, but the film takes pains to show him and us that Pandit is not all sugar and honey. Yes, he loves his wife (Neha Dhupia) and takes his daughter to badminton classes, accompanied by his underlings. But he’s also the guy who’ll shoot a man between his first and second drink.
The story has great potential, and the film stays on track for the first half. We get several laughs, beginning with Ashwin’s reactions as Pandit answers the phone, and says nothing but, “Jai hind, sir ...sir...sir...sir...sir...sir...sir...” Inamdar enters our lives as he leans over a bruised-and-beaten man, from whose pocket he fishes out a photograph. He frowns at it and says, “Behn hai? Biwi toh lagti nahin...Girlfriend hogi...achchi hai.” Ashwin meets Inamdar when he’s telling him the story of the large star in the sky, which people were captivated by. And then, a much smaller, but much brighter star came along. What does the large star do? As Ashwin tries to get away, a drunk Inamdar asks, “Twinkle twinkle little star, how...how...aage kya hai?” Ashwin mutters, “Mujhe nahin malum.” Inamdar smiles, “News channel mein kaam karte ho...aur maalum nahin?”
But it all goes wrong in the second half. The film loses its restraint along with the cops. The subtle shades of Marathi chauvinism are overstated, and it tries to bring too many issues under its umbrella. In the end, it feels somewhat like the first draft of a book in desperate need of a good editor. The film milks its plot for sentiment, so that what could have been poignant becomes maudlin, and therefore susceptible to caricature. The audience began to applaud when Sonu Sood, who had done a pretty good job handling his role thus far, broke down for two whole minutes as cloying music played.
Symbolism is overdone, what with eagles and vultures constantly circling the sky. The sound design falls back on the hoary technique of muting guessable dialogues to speed up the show. And yet, the film somehow lags. The item numbers that have been injected into the story on the slightest pretext begin to grate.
The Verdict: Maximum has all the right ingredients, but with several layers of extra garnish, it tastes wrong.

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