Saw Mithya (2008) this week. Directed by Rajat Kapoor and starring Ranvir Shorey, Neha Dhupia, Naseeruddin Shah and Vinay Pathak, among others. You might recall Ranvir Shorey and Vinay Pathak received substantial critical acclaim for their performance in Bheja Fry (2007).
The story is about an aspiring actor (played by Ranvir Shorey) who is caught in his own web of definitions for acting, and willing to take risks for his acting. He looks almost identical to a powerful and supposedly ruthless gangster. One of this gangster's enemies (played by Naseeruddin Shah, Vinay Pathak is his sidekick), exploits this similarity to rid himself of his rival. Several events (not the least important of which involve Neha Dhupia) steer the film into unchartered territory for the protagonist, the film, the industry, and its viewers.
Here are my highlights from the film:
1. The Queen's Necklace: I had to mention this. The Necklace refers to the glittering lights along perhaps the most prominent roadway in the city of Bombay (stretching from Nariman Point to Chowpatty and through Marine Drive, all along the Arabian Sea). I have a special relationship with this stretch. I grew up less than a mile inland, in a district called Churchgate. Driving through the Necklace was a near-daily occurrence. It was good to see this snapshot serve as the backdrop to an important scene at the beginning of the film. Especially one filmed at night. Here is what the Necklace looks like:
Here is Ranvir Shorey at the Necklace:
2. There is a bit at the beginning where Neha Dhupia is filming a song (she plays an actress in the film). There are several air hostesses shown in the song. Instantly, I was reminded of Garam Masala (2005), if merely for being a the intersection of Neha and the air hostess uniform, which were prominent in that film.
3. This is the second in less than a month that we have come across characters who dub for cartoons or animated films. I have thoroughly enjoyed both the portrayals (the first was with Ayesha Takia in Sunday (2008), discussed here). There is a scene within the first 15 minutes of Mithya, where Ranvir Shorey (playing the dubbing artist this time), is just frustrated by his bosses not being satisfied of his work. The resulting dialog exchange is fantastic. One of the best moments in the film, in my opinion. And flawlessly executed by Mr. Shorey.
4. Not too far from the scene mentioned [in #3] above, is a scene where Mr. Shorey is seen rehearsing delivery of dialog from a Shakespeare play (Hamlet, was it?) in front of the mirror at his home. With his make-believe cloak, he gets so involved in delivering his lines, he does not realize the volume of his speech. A neighbor makes it a point to tell him off for it, and the resulting exchange is absolutely hilarious.
5. I was really expecting more of Naseeruddin Shah in the film. Yet, his somewhat limited presence does not hurt the film in any way. Credit the rest for a job well done, where we do not catch ourselves wanting more of a bigger 'star'. The characters all blend into their roles rather well, and execute a solid script, which is perhaps the silent hero of the film.
6. A couple of exchanges with Ranvir as the underworld chief and two people he funds (one of them a filmmaker), at separate points in the film, are as good as any other in the film. Once again, the comedy does not appear exaggerated when you see it (although in essence, that is the feeling one might get after watching the film).
7. There is a scene at a bar that works wonders. There's a tight slap (of the serious kind) to the face to a doctor who refuses to predict a successful recovery for his patient. There is a family that one tries to take care of. There are lies, conspiracies, and circumstances that result in funny but often very interesting (and serious) sequences of events, most of which the audience is unprepared for. I have chosen the funny moments as my highlights, but the elements of suspense integrated into the film are just as good, and those you should discover on your own.
Three-and-a-half stars for a very good film that builds well on the foundations laid in the first 30 minutes. I cannot believe we did not hear a whole lot more about it. It is easily one of the best released this year. Mithya belongs to Ranvir Shorey, who delivers an excellent performance. The other actors pitch in with their parts. Naseeruddin Shah is his usual self. Neha Dhupia sets a personal benchmark in what I thought was a very good performance. Combine these with a soundtrack that limits itself to the plot, a background score that is every bit as effective, and a solid plot that enables the actors to operate effectively and showcase their strengths, and we have the makings of a classy and rare comedy that is a surprisingly good thriller!
Movie rating: 3.5/5 (Very good!)
My classification: R (for plot, violence, language)
Official website: http://www.planmanmotionpictures.com/mithya.htm
Go watch it (with an open mind). The film lives up to its title (the word 'mithya' means illusionary/deceitful) in an innovative approach to cinema. And it is a rare illusion, as the title of this post suggests, for it's a welcome drift away from the Bollywood norm.
Note: Pictures in this post from this gallery.