It is grim irony that while Indian cinema celebrates its 100th year with a cinematic offering in the best traditions of Indian movies with Bombay Talkies, the same weekend saw the release of another film — the Sanjay Gupta-directed Shootout at Wadala – which amply demonstrates the depths which our cinema can also sink to.
True, movie-watching is a very subjective experience and one man’s classic movie can be a boring disaster for another. But Shootout – a poor attempt by Gupta at doing a Tarantino — fails not just because it’s mediocre cinema, but more because of the levels of depravity and bad taste it falls to. Surprising, because Sanjay Gupta had earlier given us slick thrillers like Kaante which, though a Reservoir Dogs rip-off, did have its moments and was made with a certain flourish.
With Shootout, however, Gupta comes down to the lowest common denominator, pandering to the baser instinct in a manner which manages to make many in the audience squirm in their seats. Whether it is the crude jokes and the needlessly liberal doses of abusive language, the crudely shot love scenes between the principal characters played by John Abraham and Kangana Ranaut, or the manner in which the camera seeks to titillate the audiences in two of the item numbers, Shootout embodies much that is wrong with a certain kind of Indian cinema.
Right from the Sunny Leone item number – Laila Teri Loot Legi — lyrics of which were apparently toned down from much worse, to gems like “Aaj mujhe pata chala ki vardi ka rang khakhi kyu hota hai, taaki ispe koi bhi hag de", and "Jail mein nirdosh or r**dikhane mein nirodh, dono ki koi value nahi", Shootout tops the cringe quotient. Violent, melodramatic and with mediocre acting by most other than Manoj Bajpayee (wonder what an actor of his caliber was doing in a movie like this), this story of an ordinary Maharashtrian boy being transformed into a dreaded gangster neither strikes a chord nor manages to entertain.
All this, perhaps, could still be forgiven as below-average cinema. But what surely does not merit forgiving is one line by Tusshar Kapoor, who plays Munir, a gangster with a heart of gold ready to do anything for his friend Manya Surve (Abraham), the central character. In one particular sequence where Munir and Manya are trying to join a gang, Munir presents his credentials thus: “Main kuchh bhi karne ke liye taiyyaar hoon….rape bhi, agar item achhi hai toh.” (I am ready to do anything, even rape if the woman is good).
While many in the audience cringed again, the more worrisome aspect was the wolf-whistles which came from a large section of the audience. Last heard, Shootout was doing rather well at the box office. The single-screens are also overflowing. Did someone say a change of mindset was needed in how women are perceived in India? That task just got tougher.
(Bombay Talkies is produced by Viacom18, a part of Network18 which also owns Firstpost)