Director: Akshat Verma
Cast: Saif Ali Khan, Vijay Raaz, Deepak Dobriyal, Shobhita Dhulipala, Shenaz Treasurywala, Amyra Dastur
Saif Ali Khan asks a woman after kissing her, “What is the meaning of all this?” There is no answer. If you are looking for meaning, lessons or even quirky laughter-inducing moments, Kaalakaandi is not the film for you. Though the film aims to show us the dark and bizarre side of people, life and especially the city of Mumbai; Kaalakaandi is a thriller at best and an attempted comedy at worst.
The directorial debut of Delhi Belly writer Akshat Verma, Kaalakaandi has three parallel tracks that show us the different worlds that reside in Mumbai. The movie opens with Saif, an unnamed executive, who finds out he is suffering from cancer and has mere three months to live. His doctor has a special way of delivering the news: “You do not have ulcers, therefore you also do not have perforated ulcers and you can stop your medication. You have cancer, stomach cancer.”
Saif goes on a predictable rant ala Jimmy Sheirgill in Munnabhai MBBS as he cribs how he has never had alcohol, smoked or done drugs. Saif then heads home to a houseful of guests as his cousin is getting married and tries his hand at everything – alcohol, dancing with abandon and narcotics. He goes on a wild binge across the city and faces his inner demons as he goes on a spin across the city.
The second story is that of a couple – Kunal Roy Kapur and Shobhita Dhulipala -- where she is moving to America for higher studies and he is sulking. The couple decides to attend a friend’s birthday party and things go topsy-turvy from there.
Vijay Raaz and Deepak Dobriyal are the lead characters of the third story. They work as lowly courier boys for a goon but aspire to be a ‘big shot’ in the crime world. How their ambition leads to a sudden change of track in their story forms the crux of the film.
At least two of the three stories could have made for a gripping watch, Saif’s and the one involving gangsters. However, what we see onscreen is a sad apology of a narrative. The characters in all the three stories appear bland and one-dimensional, with almost no growth in the course of their narrative. Kunal’s presence in the film is a remarkable letdown – he has often proved his credentials in comic roles, especially quirky ones, and this role is an injustice to the talent.
Every other actor -- be it Shobhita, Neil Bhoopalam or Amyra -- falls victim to an ill-thought, half-baked screenplay.
Kaalakaandi, nonetheless, has its moments and Saif Ali Khan’s uninhibited performance tops the list. Saif is in form, delivers the punches with abandon and delivers a brave performance in the film. His character is expected to do a crazy dance once he gets to know his diagnosis and we can see the emotions in his irrational moves and spaced out jokes. Saif is much like the Sameer of Dil Chahta Hai who has grown up in the past 16 years but still retains something of his naiveté.
Deepak Dobriyal, who tries his best to make us laugh with his demeanour, has one impressive encounter. Dobriyal meets his idol at a crucial point – the idol is targeting Dobriyal who is talking about his fascination for the man. Impressed with Dobriyal’s dedication, the gangster hands over his own guns and asks him to practice. Dobriyal’s portrayal of the joy, surprise and emotions at the point is marvelous.
Akshat’s sensitive representation of Saif’s encounter with a transsexual is one highlight of the film. Chalk one for the queer movement.