Film: “Bombairiya”; Director: Pia Sukanya; Cast: Radhika Apte, Akshay Oberoi, Ravi Kissan, Siddhant Kapoor, Adil Hussain and Amit Sial; Rating: ***
Mumbai, or Bombay as we all know it, is a schizophrenic city. Inviting, welcoming, affectionate and warm one minute, hostile, intimidating and disorienting the next… “Bombairiya” captures the polarised propensities of the split city with vigour and humour.
Sure, towards the midpoint, the edifice of chaos built on the premise of ‘One Day in the Life Of Radhika Apte’ (she gets top solo billing), begins to fall apart. And you feel the film is trying to cram in too much physical activity at the cost of giving the plot and the characters space to breathe.
But then, this is a homage to a breathless city. And the rhythms of the film follow suit. No time to ask why. Just act.
There is an unstoppable energy about the film, and that doesn’t always work in its favour. Often times, I felt the characters were running away from themselves and from us, the audience. The relentless bhaag-daud (helter skelter) eventually seeps into the character-driven narrative. But before it does, the people who populate the bustle over the hustle, are thrown so close to our affections that we want the progressively spiralling plot to somehow come together for their sake.
The writing favours defining interactive moments on a random beat that bring strangers together.
There is Meghna (Radhika) running around a vain, philandering film star Karan Kapoor (Ravi Kissan, in splendid form as usual) when she collides with a courier man (Siddhant Kapoor). Within minutes, she is “rescued” by an incredibly kind-hearted good-looking dude Abhishek who gets busy solving all of Meghna’s problems on the road, from replacing her lost shoes with his spare sneakers, to talking to her dadi on the phone about her horribly skewed love life (Jim Sarbh shows up as her ex-boyfriend in a one-scene appearance), to accompanying her through an adventure that leaves a lot of ‘huh’ spaces in the narrative.
It all gets into a scramble that scampers clumsily into a church at the end.
But when the going is good, the plot and performances simply rock. The underrated, underused Shilpa Shukla as Ravi Kissan’s bossy and suspicious politician-wife has just a couple of scenes to make her presence felt. And she gets to it without losing a beat. Equally memorable is Dhanendra Kawade as a cop trying to do the right thing by a city hell bent on being mischievous.
Come to think of it, the actors are all in dazzling form. Is Radhika Apte ever caught on the wrong foot (even when she is without footwear in this film)? She manages to keep ahead of the ferocious flurry in the plot even when having to suddenly do a little kissy-smoochy scene with Akshay Oberoi’s reluctant fiancee-to-be (who is, sigh, a lesbian)… or made to sing a Bhajan in the car with Oberoi’s parents (nicely played by Paromita Chatterjee and Abhijit Bhor).
Siddhant is also exceptionally interesting in his role of a reluctant accomplice to a crime.
Adil Hussain, as a jailed politician, and Amit Sial as a pivotal character propelling the drama ahead to its anarchic finale (I confess I didn’t really get a fix on his place in the saturated plot), convey so much with their silent smirks. But my favourite is Akshay, who never lets a script down.
Here, he succeeds in keeping his angelic character from getting disastrously boring. Oberoi is an actor who never disappoints. Here is a film that will make you smile to the end even when the going gets really tough for the proceedings.
You know someone up there is looking out for the characters. And it isn’t God.