Creative artists are constantly falling in love with Mumbai; of course, it is very hard not to: Amid collapsing bridges, over-population and frequent flooding, the city embraces all even though it’s a massive struggle to find a spot. Every building, every lane, every bench on the sidewalk has a story to tell. Manto humanised the depraved while Rohinton Mistry and Kiran Nagarkar dealt with communalism, identity and community through soulful characters. And, Bollywood’s affair with Mumbai is as old as the film industry itself: Aar Paar, Ardh Satya, Deewar, Kamla Ki Maut, the more recent Satya, Dhobi Ghat, Bombay Talkies, The Lunchbox and now, Akshat Verma’s Kaalakaandi. Sure, the film has talented actors like Deepak Dobriyal, Vijay Raaz and a star like Saif Ali Khan, but its real hero is Mumbai.
Six years back, Akshat Verma came into the limelight as the scriptwriter of the brilliant and irreverent Delhi Belly. He makes his directorial debut with Kaalakaandi. The film has three parallel tracks unfolding on one night in Mumbai. There is Saif’s character (his name is revealed at the end), who is forced to examine his bucket list when he is diagnosed with stomach cancer while his brother, played by Akshay Oberoi, gets married. While Saif’s world is about the rich and the affluent, there are Deepak Dobriyal and Vijay Raaz, the lackeys of a local goon who are struggling to make it big. Then, there are the urban yuppy puppies Kunal Roy Kapur and Sobhita Dhulipala whose vanilla world suddenly comes crashing down.
Three stories take us to three different worlds of Mumbai. Bursting at the seams, the city, where you are happy to be just another brick in the wall, proudly flaunts its quirks and screwballs at night. But, however harsh and looming it may look during the day, Mumbai is mellow and kind in the dark.
Sobhita and Kunal are a couple who are coming to terms with their impending separation. Before she boards a flight to New York, the couple drops by at the birthday celebrations of a friend (Shenaz Treasurywala). A drug bust, a lucky escape and an accident can soon change the course of their lives.
Deepak Dobriyal and Vijay Raaz look as if they are from the 80s, but their problems are very now. These two inhabit the dark underbelly of Mumbai, but they are tired of being just lackeys and want bigger share of the pie. As they brainstorm one hare-brained idea after the other, their friendship and trust are put to test.
But by far the most interesting storyline belongs to Saif Ali Khan. It’s a Saif that we haven’t seen in a while. The actor who had established himself as the alternate Khan with films like Being Cyrus, Omkara has lately been struggling to find his footing. Akshat Verma gives him a role that he easily bites into. Saif’s character has his ‘breaking bad’ moment when he is informed that he doesn’t have enough time left. He makes the most of his acid-laced world. From coaxing a transgender sex worker (a fantastic and extremely sassy Nary Singh) to show her ‘southern hemisphere’ to him goading a cop, there are some genuinely zany, laugh out loud moments.
This whimsical ride, however, isn’t backed by a taut script. The timelines are all muddled, the loose ends at the end offer no closure. It almost feels like the writer lost interest after a point. It leaves you with a twisted sense of karma and justice for all. Of course, one might argue that life is not about getting all your ducks in a row, and the film just portrayed that.
As the characters make peace with their new realities, they slowly blend into the Mumbai night. It might be the big bad world, but you are met with kindness from unexpected quarters, get to savour hilarious encounters. And, life changing moments almost always come in the most banal forms. Kaalakaandi, if anything, is an ode to Mumbai.
The Kaalakaandi review is a Silverscreen original article. It was not paid for or commissioned by anyone associated with the movie. Silverscreen.in and its writers do not have any commercial relationship with movies that are reviewed on the site.