Cast: Pankaj Tripathi, Rahul Bagga, Rajesh Sharma, Zakir Hussain, Evelyn Sharma
Director: Annant Jaaitpaal
Truth has two sides to it: the one that the world knows, and the other, what the world perceives it as. Whosoever believes in “his” or “her” truth relies heavily on his or her instincts. Truth, then, is most often meant to be something in accord with fact or reality, or fidelity to an original or standard, and is the opposite of falsehood. But what essentially is the factual reality? That unfortunately varies from person to person, and even from situation to situation.
This week’s underrated release, Kissebaaz, directed by Annant Jaaitpaal, and starring the ever-dependable Pankaj Tripathi has an interesting source material from where stems out a revenge drama about a man who is caught in a messed up situation, but keeps his audience guessing about his own involvement or disentanglement with the disaster that follows. The best part of the film is its writing that — at least for a major part of the 123-minute film — can’t let its audience decide if the one who’s pretending to help him is truly a good samaritan or someone who cannot be trusted.
Set in Uttar Pradesh, the film is rooted in the narrow confines of the city of Benaras where criminals and politicians thrive, and their nexus is allowed to fix up several people. Obviously, the law enforcers are either hand-in-glove with them or pretend to look the other way when the powers that be have their way.
In the opening scene, we are introduced to a police officer (Mouli Ganguly) who has nabbed a criminal, Chuttan Shukla (Pankaj Tripathi), and is on her way to prison in a police van when Chuttan requests her to stop for a lunch break. On the deserted highway, where there’s not a soul in sight, Chuttan flirts with her and jokingly tells her that she has caught the wrong man, and that the real culprit is at large. Curious, she falls for his wily ways and eggs him on to reveal more. Chuttan then goes on to narrate the story of two ambitious politicians, Kripashankar Shukla (Zakir Hussain) and Shukla (Rajesh Sharma), and how their bloodthirsty ambitions turn into a fierce battle of one-upmanship as Shukla’s son is shot dead at a political meeting. Chuttan, who happens to be Sharma’s brother-in-law, makes both ends against the middle by manipulating one against the other. Every time, he stage-manages — he gets away with his crafty shrewdness as he pretends to be helping them with a unique scheme.
While the police officer is engrossed in Chuttan’s story, then enters Harsh (Rahul Bagga) in the narration. Harsh, who is picked up by the goons of both the rival groups one by one, and is mistakenly referred to as Ram Lal, pleads innocence, and even begs to be let off since he is engaged to get married to Naina (Anupriya Goenka). Despite his desperate imploring, he is beaten up black and blue as he tries to escape from their clutches.
Is Harsh a victim of a conspiracy? Or is there more to Chuttan’s story that implicates an innocent man? Is the police officer buying Chuttan’s story? The film then adds more twists around the two factions associated with different political groups.
To be fair, the film keeps viewers engaged even as several questions emerge that leave you with more questions than any answers. Harsh’s torture in the hands of both the rival gangs does seem like a diversion and when Harsh starts singing songs with Naina, the film derails completely. Where it falters is its rather tacky handling of a few scenes and some abrupt editing. With the main character Chuttan played by Tripathi keeping everyone guessing about his real motive, you will find a reason to hang on to your seat, but perhaps, Jaaitpaal needs more seasoned deftness to accomplish the ripeness needed for such a story. You do feel that he has bitten off more than he could chew.
Watch it if you must, for Pankaj Tripathi!