Onto the next release of the weekend and I finished watching the new Hindi film Kuttey in a theatre near me. Now if you have been following my reviews then you would know that I generally do not watch trailers of films, simply because the trailers these days do give out a lot of spoilers which would otherwise have been crucial surprise elements while watching the film. But when it did come to Kuttey, the entire setup with the right mix of characters was so good that it did promise for an exciting watch!
It was in 2009 that I had witnessed the magic of Vishal Bhardwaj in his film Kaminey which till date remains one of the finest dark comedies for me. The entire setup with the addition of different characters did make for such a flavourful watch, something that still lingers on 14 years after its release. But strangely so, the genre of having multiple characters after a common goal isn’t tapped enough. Elsewhere in Hollywood, there have been films helmed by Guy Ritchie like Snatch, Lock Stock And Two Barrels which have tackled a similar subject. Now while I am unable to explain this genre in as many words(I think you get the gist), Kuttey did promise a similar experience atleast from its trailer. So then does Kuttey manage to impress, lets find out.
Story & Screenplay
Kuttey follows a group of ambitious people after a trunk of money. And that is all you need to know before venturing into the film. The story had all the elements of a lip smacking dark comedies with high doses of situational humour at bizarre places. But the screenplay standing at just 112 minutes was 30 minutes short of greatness. And I say that because it lacked that X Factor which was present in Kaminey. That X Factor that did comprise of a bit of world building and characterization along with a good level of buildup.
First things first, I have read a few reviews absolutely thrashing the film. So I say this on record, this ain’t a bad film by any stretch of imagination. In fact, it is heartening to witness bouts of originality from Bollywood very early on in the year, as opposed to a plethora of remakes after remakes in a disastrous 2022. But while I do applaud the effort here, I cannot overlook the glaring flaws here, something that I do wish to highlight in a constructive manner. Mild spoilers ahead!
The drama, divided into chapters, does open on a stunning note with a supposed Naxalite being captured by the police only to be raped and tortured before being rescued in dramatic style. One thing that the film gets absolutely pitch perfect is the aesthetics of the drama. The opening fight sequence that features a group of Naxalite absolutely stream rolling a group of policemen, is shot beautifully and sets the ball rolling for things to follow. The red sky signifying their motto ‘Laal Salaam’ or ‘Blood Of Authorities’ was almost poetry in motion wherein the filmmaker did showcase some serious skills. Soon after a character is beheaded, an element of foreshadow is inflicted. So far so good!
The drama has a brilliant setup particularly in the first half. The USP of these dramas(remember Kaminey, yes again) lies in the fact that there are plenty of characters who do potentially have a stake in the pie(or the entire pie itself). Likewise here, some of the characters hold a lot of meat and are really well cooked, left to simmer on the stove until they explode at various places. I really did wish that a little more time was invested in the world building to completely get a textured drama as opposed to the mad rush. The filmmaker had more time than he had envisioned. Having said that, the events of the first half are impressive with dollops of dark humour that found me laughing hysterically at various junctures. The entire sequences of a van being robbed was so well done that it had my interests piqued throughout the first hour. Even the interval block was interesting with a man freshly gunned down by one of the newly introduced characters. All this while there are constant references to animals in multiple scenes(comparing their traits to humans).
The issue though does lie in the second half which should have really ascended the drama to new heights. It had just so much potential but instead I did witness a dip, although thankfully not a trainwreck. I really wished for a little more characterization and buildup in certain sequences that would have acted as a perfect foreplay for the audiences. But while the events were jet fast, it did not involve the viewers much simply because the audience wasn’t invested enough in the characters. In between there was a hilarious chase sequence thrown in, and an interesting mix of characters too but the motives of characters and the ability of the writing to join the dots was in question. The third act too had all the elements in place but never did it rise to the occasion or was even minutely layered(remember Kaminey, again and again). The finishing blow was missing with a far too convenient and simplistic final act.
The writing could have been so much better here. For instance, the entire naxalites angle could and should have been introduced earlier. Also, at atleast a couple of junctures, there are two separate sets of characters talking about how intimidated they were by a local gangster(read Naseeruddin Shah). Well, that could so easily have been brought in, in the final act just as a layer of surprise(Yes, Kaminey again), as opposed to opting for a disjointed take on Demonetization(which was fairly funny too). So these were some missed opportunities in the drama which could have easily extended by another 30 to 40 minutes for a more rounded take. So overall, while the screenplay is good, it would go down as a missed opportunity as it could well have been great!
Dialogues, Music & Direction
The dialogues are witty(and filled with expletives) and true to the nature of the drama in the dark comedy space. The music is one of the highlights of the film particularly with the way the songs are used in its narrative. So while the songs may seem decent with respect to the playlist, the songs absolutely kill it with the drama thereby enhancing the proceedings in a big manner. But something that I would wish to watch the film again for is its spectacular BGM that elevates so many scenes even from the point of view of a buildup. Every moment of thrill is backed by the iconic ‘Dhan Ta Nan’ that adds tremendous value to the proceedings. The cinematography and the lighting is gorgeous, with many scenes that use a single shade of red or purple to add a layer of mystery and intrigue to the drama. Director Aasmaan Bhardwaj does a good job here but he is most definitely rough around the edges. While he showcases some jaw-dropping skills as a director and shows promise, some of the scenes, like the final shootout scene, does lack execution with respect to the buildup. The art of allowing the drama to reach its pinnacle by delaying the inevitable is something that he needs to master.
The ensemble comprises of a cast to die for and even though a few characters lack depth but overall everyone has done a great job here. While Anurag Kashyap does add ‘star’ value, Ashish Vidyarthi as Harry impresses once again in a little cameo. Naseeruddin Shah as Narayan Kombre is aptly cast and does a good job although his character could have been given a little more scope, especially towards the end. Likewise for Konkona Sen Sharma who is brilliant as Laxmi but underutilized. Shardul Bhardwaj as Danny is really good here. Radhika Madan as Lovely has a charming yet gun toting presence and she does a swell job here although I did feel her characterization was rather one-dimensional(no fault of hers).
Kumud Mishra as Paaji is absolutely brilliant and it is such a pleasure to watch him every single time. Tabu as Pammi is an outstanding actor and she deserves the highest accolades for holding on to an otherwise crumbling second half and rescuing the end product in a way. And much has been said about Arjun Kapoor and his limited ability as an actor. While I do agree to most of the criticism but I always believe that certain actors rely on the skills of certain directors to extract winning performances. We did see how Dibakar Banerjee had extracted a brilliant performance from him in Sandeep Aur Pinky Faraar. Likewise here, it is Aasmaan who has managed him and his limited abilities very well and worked to his advantage. Arjun has done a good job here and it would be rather unfair to criticize his performance here as it really wasn’t bad.
Kuttey is a fun watch with outstanding performances that can be watched once. Yet, this will go down as a missed opportunity as it doesn’t live up to its full potential and falls well short of greatness. Available in a theatre near you.