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Bombay Talkies  : Fourplay!
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Friday, May 3, 2013
Anurag Kashyap, Dibakar Banerjee, Karan Johar, Zoya Akhtar
Rani Mukherjee, Randeep Hooda, Saqib Saleem, Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Naman Jain, Ranvir Shorey, Vineet Kumar Singh, Amitabh Bachchan, Katrina Kaif
What’ve a closet gay, a cross-dresser and craze for a star got to do with one another? They get together to celebrate 100 years of cinema. With four directors, each with a skill of his/her own, trying to tell four different stories, it still falls short of a real celebration.   

The plot: Karan Johar goes gay this time, a change from his rich bratty stock-in-trade. From an outraged parent of a gay coming out into the open to a husband’s covert homosexuality, Karan packs it all into the story of Gayatri (Rani), Dev (Randeep) and Avinash (Saqib).

Dibakar chooses Purandar (Nawazuddin Siddiqui), a nondescript failed actor who gets one shot at proving himself, and he does it most importantly to be able to tell his daughter a story that will put a happy smile on her wan face.

Zoya treads the Karan route with 12-year-old Vickey (Naman Jain) and his fascination for lipsticks, high heels and Katrina Kaif’s ‘Sheila ki jawani’ moves, with a repetition of the outraged parent (Ranvir Shorey) track. 

Anurag chugs from Allahabad to Mumbai with matinee idol worship and Vijay (Vineet Kumar Singh), a fan who must meet Amitabh Bachchan for his father’s sake.

The good: Rani Mukherjee is daring in her tantalizing Manish Malhotra cholis (Avinash the gay calls it her Dirty Picture look; rather apt given her extra poundage), with heaving bosom et al. But what a stellar performance! Randeep and Saqib are comfortable in an uncomfortable situation, yeah, even when they do a full-on smooch. Without his super-lavish sets and shaadi song-n-dance, Karan is able to get gritty, even dusty, as he moves into unfamiliar territory following a beggar girl who trills for the crowds at a railway bridge. What is familiar is that Karan gets his emotions right as always with a touch of humour. But what’s all this got to do with celebrating cinema? Ah, Karan weaves in old Hindi film songs to make a connect.     

Dibakar is at home in Purandar’s lower middle class setting. Credit him with getting one of Nawazuddin’s finest performances out of him in what is essentially a one-man story.

Zoya’s Vickey (Naman Jain) is splendid and adorable too, with an infectious smile. And you want to watch him to see where it’s all heading. The bonding with his sis is also cute.
Anurag’s Vijay (Vineet Kumar Singh) does his act well with dad (Sudhir Pandey) providing unexpected comic relief.

Half a star also goes to creative producer Ashi Dua for stringing together four varied story-tellers to pay tribute to Indian cinema.  

The bad: Did Karan’s Avinash have to be so obnoxious? You want to hit him too (like his dad and then Ranvir do) and not because of his sexuality.

Why did Nawazuddin have to leave without his money and without giving his phone number which may have helped him tell many more stories to his daughter? Because all he can think of in his usual impractical way is to rush to his child’s bedside to tell her his story? And he runs and runs from daylight to nightfall to reach home?

Why have Zoya and Anurag deified film stars so cloyingly to sell either a dream (to Vickey) or to hand over mom’s murabba to a super star? And Katrina is so plastic, she doesn’t touch a chord anywhere.

Why did Anurag have to tell his tale at all in what’s easily the most long-winding of the four-in-one-pack? Adulation was shown eons ago by Hrishikesh Mukherjee in Guddi – hero worship can’t get better than that. And Vijay’s open-mouthed fascination (which includes yearning for a superstar to bite his murabba, and take the half-eaten jhootha to his dad back home – yech) is almost nauseous. Whatever made Amitabh Bachchan, usually so humble about his stardom, want to be a part of something where he’s likened to God?   

Overall: For a different experience, a new kind of celebration, some really outstanding performances and a couple of servings of fresh cinematic thought, it’s worth a visit.
- Latika Mehta
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