June 28, 2013
Raj Kumar Gupta
Vidya Balan, Emraan Hashmi, Rajesh Sharma, Namit Das, Parvin Dabas
Ghanchakkar is a fantastic concept stretched to non-fantastic proportions. There are so many individual elements in the film that are wonderfully memorable … the angle at which Vidya Balan’s eccentric Neetu holds her fork at every single meal … the absolute consistency with which she remains obsessed with women’s / fashion magazines, come hell or high water … the stroke of genius that inspired the director to pick three celebrity masks with just the right expression (one hilariously wide-eyed, the other grave, the third half-smiling) to be worn by three bank robbers ... Such gems! Yet somewhere along the way in this tragi-comic thriller, you get the feeling that Team Ghanchakkar (direction: Raj Kumar Gupta, writing: Gupta and Parvez Sheikh) was so impressed with their concept and climax that they failed to notice they were meandering and repeating themselves beyond a point.
Ghanchakkar is about a career criminal on the verge of retirement, Sanju (Emraan Hashmi), who agrees to be a part of one last heist that will set him up for life. He is roped into this bank robbery by two seemingly bumbling fellows called Pandit (Rajesh Sharma) and Idris (Namit Das). Sanju is given the task of keeping the money safe for three months till the police search cools down. And along comes the twist in the tale. When Pandit and Idris return to claim their share of the loot, the money can’t be found for reasons I won’t reveal here. Is Sanju spinning yarns? Or does he have a genuine problem? What role does his wife Neetu play in this entire affair? The answers are what make up the story of Ghanchakkar.
The film is thoroughly funny to begin with. The bank robbery is a killer. The dinner scenes with Sanju and Neetu too are a hoot. In fact, Neetu is a one-woman variety entertainment show who kind of reminds me of that line Balan’s Reshma a.k.a. Silk uttered in The Dirty Picture, “Filmein sirf teen cheezon ki vajah se chalti hain… entertainment, entertainment, entertainment… aur main entertainment hoon.” Yes she is, people! Balan does not miss a single beat throughout the film, which is amazing considering how bizarre her character is and how long the film goes on and on. The way she slouches over the table during meals, the angle at which she holds her fork that I just can’t get out of my mind, her garish outfits that she considers “fashionable” aur “ultra-modern”, that Punjabi accent that her character slips into every time she’s riled though she speaks a smoother variety of English in her calmer moments ... it’s all delightful. She claims that her ensembles are all inspired by Femina, Cosmopolitan, Vogue and their ilk. I suspect those magazines would not be flattered since she, clearly, is mixing and matching and modifying their suggestions to come up with her own ridiculous wardrobe. And then there is that scene in which Sanju is in the bathroom and Neetu calls out to him from their bedroom, “Ab andar hi rahoge ya baahar bhi aaoge?” We don’t see her at all when she speaks that sentence, but the come-hither tone just oozes through that wall. This is one of those performances that can only happen when there is a meeting of minds between an extremely talented actress, director, writer/s, make-up artist and costume director. For Neetu above all else, the entire team of Ghanchakkar deserves one big salaam.
Not so elsewhere. Emraan Hashmi is a usually dependable actor but his Sanju is a tad dull. There’s a nice touch in the writing of his character though. Sanju lets wifey take the initiative in bed, which is something we almost never see in Hindi films. He’s also good friends with her; he may hate her cooking and her clothes, but he certainly respects her and leans on her for advice.
The ones who suffer the most from the repetitiveness that sets into the film past the halfway mark are the remarkable talents of Rajesh Sharma and Namit Das. Sharma is a wonderful actor and has been a companion to Balan and director Raj Kumar Gupta in recent years. Who can forget his excellent corrupt-yet-honest policeman in No One Killed Jessica (the film that first brought Balan and Gupta together) or the oily-yet-likeable film producer who gave Silk her big break in Milan Luthria’s The Dirty Picture? Das played Ranbir Kapoor’s friend in Wake Up Sid, though he’s probably most familiar to viewers these days as the boy who refuses to phone his mother in the Idea ad. Sadly, Pandit and Idris are uni-dimensional characters who become increasingly uninteresting as the film rolls along.
What is it with so many Hindi film makers that compels them to make 2-to-3-hour films out of concepts that demand brevity? This is a criticism that completely contradicts Gupta’s track record so far: the highlights of his films Aamir and No One Killed Jessica were their compactness and pace. The problem with Ghanchakkar is that it needed both, but has neither. And few things can be worse for a film than stretched jokes.
So after an impressive set-up, there are entertaining bits and pieces in the second half of the film, and the last couple of minutes of the climax are not bad at all, but it just doesn’t add up. It’s also impossible to get past the fact that the writers clearly ran out of ideas after a point. Three great masks and a Vidya Balan do not a summer or a movie make.
Rating (out of five): **
CBFC Rating (India):
137 minutes (as per pvrcinemas.com)