Release date: February 4, 2011
Director: Srikanth V. Velagaleti
Cast: Vinay Pathak, Mahie Gill, Mona Singh, Saurabh Shukla, Sanjay Mishra
Utt Pataang has several ingredients that would hold promise for a Hindi film audience increasingly seeking out experimental indie cinema. It stars the ever dependable Vinay Pathak who can play the common man better than most in Bollywood; Mahie Gill who made a smashing debut with Dev D; and Saurabh Shukla who may have been playing more or less the same guy in most of his recent films, but does that well all the same.
Now delivering on that promise is a different matter altogether. Pathak plays the simpleton Ram who has been dumped by his lady love (Gill). One night, Ram hooks up with a pretty young stranger (Mona Singh) only to be rudely interrupted by the first lady who is anxious to pick up her luggage from their apartment. Somewhere in between there’s the detective Nandu (Shukla), a gangster Lucky who is a Francophile and happens to be Ram’s doppelganger, a bag full of cash and another filled with lingerie.
The occurrences of that one night are told and re-told in bits and parts, with each re-telling inserting a missing piece into a jigsaw that you initially don’t realise is a jigsaw. The story and the style are interesting at the start, especially in the interactions between Pathak and Singh. There’s also some low-key humour on display. But then it all gets more tedious with each visitation as it dawns on you that the entire exercise is purposeless and time-consuming. What I was looking for with each narration was a new perspective on the story, a new interpretation (think He Said, She Said for instance); what I got instead was the inclusion of a minuscule new factual element. So by the time you hear it for the umpteenth time with just an itsy-bitsy addition, you really don’t care who got the money, which girl walked away and which one did not, who did what why, or that there’s actually a rather neat twist in the climax.
The film has pretensions to a noir-ish style but is unable to pull it off. And while Pathak as Ram is his usual likeable self, I couldn’t endure him as the gangsta speaking a cross between French and Hindi in what I can only assume was a tribute (a very un-funny one) to The Pink Panther’s bumbling Jacques Clouseau.
I know that Utt Pataang was trying hard to be something, but I’m afraid I couldn’t say what. If you figure it out, do let me know.
Rating (out of five): *1/2
PS: Though Utt Pataang didn’t work for me, I’m interested enough in director Srikanth V. Velagaleti’s evidently varied influences to want to see another film from him.