Synopsis – A van carrying crores of cash. One rainy night in the outskirts of Mumbai. Unaware of each other, three stray gangs cross paths on the hunt. Unfortunately, all of them have the same plan. Will they bite the bone or will they lose to greed?
My Take – Though filmmaker Vishal Bhardwaj has garnered critical acclaim and several accolades for adapting William Shakespeare tragedies in the form of Maqbool (2003), Omkara (2006), and Haider (2014), his strength flourished especially in the black comedy genre as seen in films like Kaminey (2009), 7 Khoon Maaf (2011) and Pataakha (2018), and his co-writing efforts, Ishqiya (2010), its sequel Dedh Ishqiya (2014).
However, his involvement in his latest is limited to co-producer, composer, additional screenplay and dialogue writer duties, as it marks his son Aasmaan Bhardwaj‘s directorial debut. Who not only brings along familiar players like writer Gulzar, Editor A. Sreekar Prasad and actors Naseeruddin Shah, Tabu and Konkona Sen Sharma into the fold, but also sets his tale in a background that is obviously twisted, absolutely wicked and deliciously dark, a type of world that has been masterfully presented by Vishal Bhardwaj himself before. With profanity infused, the mood feels all the more on-brand.
Thankfully, it delivers too well enough. Served as caper that aims to entertain with fun twists and turns, crafty characters and underlying commentary about multiple things, this is a film that doesn’t skim out on its immersive experience. Throwing in every trick in the book to confuse and engage the audience with a convoluted and chaotic narrative.
Yes, the film is muddled with loopholes and clearly struggles with the problem of plenty, as with multiple stories and subplots running concurrently some do end up getting side-lined. Nevertheless, keeping in mind its precise 108 minutes run time, it manages to be undeniably a wildly amusing mishmash of guns, corrupt people and swearing.
The story follows Gopal (Arjun Kapoor) and Paaji (Kumud Mishra), two corrupt police officers, who find themselves suspended when they get caught with drugs, worth crores, following their failed assassination attempt on a drug dealer named Surti (Jay Upadhyay), which they took up on behalf of a threat from the dreaded wheelchair-bound gangster, Narayan Khobre (Naseeruddin Shah). In order to get their suspension orders revoked, the two seek help from Pammi Sandhu (Tabu), a corrupt, ruthless inspector, who asks them to arrange Rs. 1 crore each in order to get their suspension revoked.
However, opportunity comes knocking when they meet Harry (Ashish Vidyarthi), a former cop and a friend of Pammi, who now works in private security and talks about he handles the supply of money to the ATMs in Mumbai, with his van in particular carrying at least Rs. 4 crores every night. While Gopal gathers help from some police officers, whose lives he had saved during an operation once, to loot the van from an isolated spot, unknown to him, Pammi and Paaji too have begun working in cahoots with the van’s driver and two desi katta suppliers, to do the same.
Unsurprisingly, the best-laid heist plans go awry. As bullets begin to fly, forbidden lovers Lovely (Radhika Madan), Narayan Khobre’s daughter, and her bodyguard, Danny Dandekar (Shardul Bhardwaj), and a Maoist revolutionary Laxmi (Konkona Sen Sharma) also join in the madness.
Echoing a typical Tarantino inspired narrative wherein the scattered plot is broken down into multiple chapters sandwiched between a fiery prologue and punchline of an epilogue, the film doles out scenario after scenario that takes the story forward. Shaped like a maze, everyone is ready to double cross and kill someone in a whiff. It is not an easy genre, but director Aasmaan Bhardwaj does a decent job of sticking to a modified three-act structure, never making it feel like a mess.
He takes the whole first half to set the base of the story before plunging us into the chaos that is the second half. This is a story that very bravely relies a whole lot on the other half and the filmmaker takes that risk quite consciously and makes sure he does his best to not let it look like an imbalanced product.
To be carving out a screenplay like this one, that deals with an array of subplots is always an arduous task any writer takes up. Right away, you are preparing yourself to either become too indulgent or deal with loopholes and missed opportunities which is almost inevitable. To their credit, writers Aasmaan and Vishal Bhardwaj manage to be articulate as they weave all the parallel stories they had included that somehow tie ends towards the climax. More often than not, they succeed in equally engaging and that is a feat. What lifts the film’s constantly dark and gritty narrative is the catchy tune of Vishal Bharadwaj’s iconic composition ‘Dhan Te Nan‘ that lingers in the background.
But while the twists are insane fun along with thrills, there are several loopholes and under-cooked plot points between the many stories. A few questions remain unanswered and not because they are meant to but because they feel unresolved. There are a few instances where the jumps between characters seem unsatisfying, but their so much chaos in its 108 minutes that it doesn’t leave much remove to think about everything, at least initially.
Performance wise, Arjun Kapoor delivers an honest performance, proving that he can indeed justify right roles. Radhika Madan reminds once again that she is indeed one of finest actresses working today, and even though her co-star Shardul Bhardwaj feels rather underutilized, the two are able to make their romantic plot emotionally engaging. Kumud Mishra shines just like you would expect him to.
However, the film belongs to Tabu, who continues to give one banger of a performance after another. What makes her act even better is that she seems to having an absolute ball playing this delicious character. Her pitch is perfect and appears effortless. In brief appearances, Naseeruddin Shah, Konkana Sen Sharma and Ashish Vidyarthi make their limited time on screen count. On the whole, ‘Kuttey’ is an electric and deliciously dark crime caper that will keep you engaged throughout.
Directed – Aasmaan Bhardwaj
Rated – PG15
Run Time – 108 minutes