I have owned this movie for a while, but put off watching it because I’d heard and read many times that the ending was dark. It was, but not in the way I expected. And, while the last shot was unrelentingly bleak, angry and bitter, the climax before it was brilliant farce. This is unquestionably the blackest and most comic black comedy I’ve ever seen.
There is nothing I can say about this film that hasn’t been said many times before, but a classic like this deserves all the repeat publicity it gets. Reading the blurb, outlining the tale of two photographers trying to set up their own small business and getting trapped in the mire of corruption around them, I was expecting biting satire with a tragic end. What I got was a film that often had me laughing out loud at its sheer silliness, while presenting an unrelentingly realistic, and therefore grim, view of the social issues it was lampooning. Book-ending the film with two very different presentations of the feel-good inspirational ham honge kamyab served to nicely sum up its bitter theme.
The film was not without its flaws. I felt the pursuit scene from the house through the mosque to the theatre was over-long. In fact, I was beginning to weary of it, and was contemplating hitting the fast forward button, until I saw that they were about to go on stage. I am so very glad I didn’t. The madcap mangling of the Mahabharata was several minutes of nonstop laughter for me. Sadly, because I’m utterly useless at getting subtext, I only saw the surface. I laughed to myself thinking, “the audience thinks it’s hilarious because it’s all part of the play”, but it was only when I read the always excellent filmi geek’s review that I was given the real meaning of that passive audience.
After watching it I read that the film was made on a budget that would make a shoestring seem luxurious, and that helped make sense of some of the details that annoyed me while watching it. It is a tribute to the skill and commitment of all involved that they managed to make a film that was always relentlessly dark and almost always screamingly funny at the same time. Watching Naseeruddin on stage defending Draupadi’s honour made me wish that I could see this fine actor in his natural environment. That feeling was reinforced by the very theatrical final scene. It was quite literally a theatrical ending, one that belonged to the stage.
I don’t know if I will watch the whole film again, but I will certainly rewatch the Mahabharata scene when I want a good belly laugh, and I’m really looking forward to checking the special features disc. This film really is very close to being the perfect example of bitterly funny film making, and I strongly recommend it to anyone who enjoys their humour dark.