Kaminey is a 2009 Indian Hindi-language action film written and directed by Vishal Bhardwaj. The basic plot outline of Kaminey follows the rivalry between two estranged twin brothers – Charlie and Guddu and how their lives (and fate) get intertwined when one puts himself in danger via a `get rich quick’ scheme and the other finds there is a price on his head. The story is set against the backdrop of Mumbai under the influence of monsoon and mafia where the actions of one character sets into motion the most thrilling chain of events. A little heads-up for whoever is reading this review: this is going to be a long one because it’s really hard for me to sum up my love and appreciation for this movie in a brief review. And also, this movie deserves a long and heartfelt review.
Cast & Crew
Okay so why, and more importantly how is Vishal Bhardwaj so amazing? This was rhetorical by the way ! Because by now all of us are familiar with his filmography and range as a writer, filmmaker and music director. Is there anything that he can’t do? Interestingly, Bhardwaj’s debut movie was also about a pair of twins, which was so brilliant yet so different from Kaminey. I guess it would be safe to say that Bhardwaj is not just an expert at adapting great literary pieces but also creating great storylines around twins and their equations.
The original development of Kaminey came from a script written by Cajetan Boy, a Kenyan writer from Nairobi attending a scriptwriting workshop held by Mira Nair in 2005. The basic outline of the story was about a pair of twin brothers from the city’s slums and the events that occur in their lives during a 24-hour period. To visualise a story from this simple logline is a great feat in itself and only a visionary like Bhardwaj could’ve done justice to this plot by forming the most engaging and thrilling narrative around this simple idea. Also, kudos to Sabrina Dhawan, Abhishek Chaubey and Supratik Sen for writing such a great screenplay with so many distinct storylines and interesting characters.
Okay so now let’s talk about the soundtrack of Kaminey. What a BANGER right? I am writing this review while listening to the songs on full volume and it takes me back to the days when the soundtrack had just released and I would listen to all the songs on loop, non-stop for days and imagine how they would look like on-screen. Even though it’s a little hard to pick but one of my all time favourite songs is “Rasta hai jo sasta nahi”, which is an extremely underrated track not just from this film but also from Bhardwaj’s discography. All the songs and the entire background score are such great standalone musical pieces.
And it would be so unfair to talk about the music of Kaminey and not mention the beautiful lyrics written by Gulzar ! “Tezabi chakuo ke dhaar pe jo chalte hai woh bachte nahi”, uff how do you even write stuff like this? I am really struggling here to not put 10 heart emojis while talking about the lyrics of all the songs written by Gulzar for this movie. The lyrics don’t just compliment the music but also the storyline and characters’ situations so well.
I saw this movie before I moved to Mumbai, so for me “Mumbai ki baarish” was so overdone and romanticised on screen but this movie portrayed Mumbai monsoons in a completely different aspect right from the first frame and caught my attention! And the credit for that goes to Tassaduq Hussain, the cinematographer of this movie. While rewatching the movie, I realised that most of the sequences are either handheld or shot on steadicam which is why the chase sequences look so effortless and the pacing is so thrilling. The characters have also been shot extensively across some amazingly gloomy locations to bring out the sketchy background of all the characters and their unpredictability.
And finally, let’s talk about the insane cast of this insanely amazing movie. Even though Priyanka Chopra and Shahid Kapoor are the frontrunners of Kaminey and have done an exceptionally good job, I truly believe that Kaminey works so well because of its highly talented ensemble cast. Indian movies with star studded ensembles have rarely worked in the past, apart from a few exceptions, and what really worked for them were some really solid character stories. Kaminey is probably one of those few exceptions to have worked, not just because each character was so well written but also because of the underrated and extremely talented actors. The casting for each character was spot on, be it Amol Gupte as Bhope Bhau, Chandan Roy Sanyal as Mikhail, Hrishikesh Joshi as Inspector Lele or even Tenzing Nima as Tashi, who is actually Bhardwaj’s friend and a tour operator in Mussoorie. I truly feel it is this group of supporting actors who actually justify the title of this movie.
Also, not sure if this was a conscious or an unconscious casting choice by Bhardwaj but Vijay Raj, who portrayed the role of Chunni & Munni’s father in Makdee also portrayed the role of Guddu & Charlie’s father in Kaminey. Makes me wonder about the other easter eggs hidden across Bhardwaj’s movies.
My Take “Mere papa kehte the ki, hum yaha doodh mein shakkar ki tarah hai. Chale gaye to doodh kam nahi hoga lekin pheeka zaroor padh jaega.”
I remember watching this movie in the theatre with my mom who was clearly not impressed with my movie choices at that point and was shooting daggers at me for making her watch this movie in a theatre but I couldn’t care less because my eyes were hooked to the screen ! And let’s just say that no one could have pulled off a movie as perfect as this other than Vishal Bhardwaj. And I say perfect because everything was so spot on- right from the cast to the music to even the colour grading. And I was so glad to see that it was even shot across the lesser known Harbour Line area. The city is shown as dark with shades of grey, just like the plot and the characters and that is exactly what made me and so many other people connect with Kaminey. Each character is so shady and morally compromised. I feel every character of Kaminey is worthy of a spin-off movie of their own because their story arcs are so complicated yet so perfect with the most satisfying ending. What also amazes me about this movie is how the screenplay incorporates social commentary on so many relevant issues like xenophobia, corruption, crime and even HIV-AIDS. In spite of having an ensemble cast with multiple plots, the film keeps you on the edge of your seat right until the climax. And if you watch Kaminey closely you will notice how it has all the generic tropes of a typical bollywood drama about estranged brothers with a case of mistaken identity but what makes it original is Bhardwaj’s unique and unusual style of filmmaking along with the collaboration of some of the best artists from the Indian film industry. What also made Bhardwaj’s approach to the twin angle so fresh and unique was the addition of speech impediments to the protagonists- Charlie, who has a lisp and Guddu, who stammers. And the speech impediments were not just there for the sake of humour but they added so much more character to the otherwise generic underdog-type personalities of both Guddu & Charlie and made them distinct from each other. Even though it has been 12 years since Kaminey released but it has aged so well that I still suggest this movie to anyone who loves a good action-thriller-black comedy-crime-drama. Yes, it fits all the possible genres and does not miss a beat in any of them. A movie like this deserves to be watched on a big screen and that is probably why Kaminey is and always will be one of my favourite movies that I’ve watched in a theatre.
Disclaimer: The above review solely illustrates the views of the writer.