Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Johnny Gaddar (2007)

There is no dispute on Vijay Anand being the de facto Master of Suspense/Thriller in Indian Cinema history. So when we have a movie that pays tribute to this master (starting from quite an obvious title), purists like me sit up and get ready to tear apart any fallings. Consider the astonishment when the movie not only lives up to the name, but dignifies it! That this movie actually got made, and then received a wide-release is in itself a surprise - hardly are any studios or distributors in India who support movies that do not conform to the fabric of established norms of Bollywood. Yet we have this movie. Raghavan gives us a genuine film-noir that is so rare that it is easy to lose it in the mêlée of mediocrity that Bollywood blockbusters represent.

An almost grayscale visual theme with shocks of Red (very Sin City - nobody is innocent), no break-out sessions for song&dance and a crisp running time (135 minutes) alienates it frm regular cinema. The movie revels in what it is, and religiously refers to the works it inspires from. Yet, and in doing so, it establishes a unique identity that would live through the said mêlée.

The casting choices of the movie also make for a great ensemble, especially with the presence of Dharamendra, whose stature and age are also put to great use. Neil Nitin Mukesh makes his debut, and is already lost in the shadows while lights shine on other star-kids. Yet he plays the most daring and convincing maiden role to establish a sure-fire position on the "to-be-watched" list.

Raghavan makes the most inherently "cool" movie of the year, complete in 60's retro garb of filmmaking (cinematography, editing, character focus, color grading) that fits right in with the film-noir subject. If not for the obvious anachronisms, this could easily have been a movie from the 60s, if not from the Master himself.

My rating --> 4 of 5

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