Kaalakaandi: Thank you Saif Ali Khan, Akshat Verma for this wacky love letter to Mumbai

Swetha Ramakrishnan

January 12, 2018 14:30:11 IST

A Saif Ali Khan film is always fun. I know that's a blanket statement to make, given some misses (*cough* Humshakals *cough*); but at the very least, you know you'll be rewarded with an earnest, and also entertaining, performance.

With Kaalakaandi, directed by Akshat Verma, the hopes have always been high. The trailer for this Saif-starrer indicated its racy plot, which only made me want to hop on board the wild ride. Kaalakaandi is the story of a man who finds out he has cancer, and decides to let loose one night — which ends up being the craziest night of his life, involving drugs, raves, car races through Mumbai's seedy underbelly, and a smattering of good ol' sex.

Poster for Kaalakaandi

Poster for Kaalakaandi

Within the first few glimpses of Kaalakaandi, you can tell Mumbai is as much a character as Saif.

The film starts with grim looking shots of the city; furthering the mood, it is revealed right at the onset that the protagonist has stomach cancer. The disease is already in its last stages. The doctor advises him to do whatever makes him happy and put his affairs in order. A few moments are spent establishing his frustration, and then we jump right into the ensemble stories that comprise Kaalakaandi.

Small snippets from each parallel story (after Saif's) are revealed in quick succession: Deepak Dobrial and Vijay Raaz are driving through the city in the still of the night; an urban couple, played by Sobhita Dhulipala and Kunaal Roy Kapur, grapple with separation; Neil Bhoopalam, a movie buff, has an unfortunate incident involving a gun.

Each story is quirky, quick and gives you small bursts of information — but cuts away just as you're about to settle into the sub-plot.

The signature Akshat Verma vibe is present in Kaalakaandi — your mind is on Saif's story track, and you want to know how a man who has stomach cancer will live out the rest of his time. But the quirkiness and fun in the film comes from the other characters. At the backdrop of all this is a wedding that Saif has to attend (of his cousin's), where he meets a bunch of friends who coax him to let loose.

Now 'let loose' obviously = drugs. Before the stray ends of the plot can be tied in with the main narrative (what are these people's names? how are they related?) Saif takes what his friend calls 'a strong drug', which looks like a red star. Cue: craziness.

While the drugs take their time to hit Saif, some aspects of the plot are revealed. Deepak Dobrial and Vijay Raaz seem to be playing some sort of extortionists related to the film world (they're seen driving into and out of RK Studio), Sobhita Dhulipala and Kunaal Roy Kapur are a routine couple dealing with boredom and too much interference from their parents. We're introduced to Akshay Oberoi, Saif's cousin, who is the one getting married. However, he gets a phone call from an old booty call, and that changes the dynamics of the night.

There are three things that pull you through this maze of this narrative: the background score, the curiosity angle (Akshay Verma knows how to tease) and how Mumbai is shown at night. And finally, when the drugs do kick in, we see the side of Saif we've been waiting for: unabashed, funny, and a great performer.

It's like a game to catch up with the plot of Kaalakaandi: at times you want to give up, sit back and just let everything take over, but some moments make you sit up and take notice. Most of them involve Saif and his 'massacre' of things around him due to the fact that he's high. (One of the funniest scenes has him instigate a cop with over-the-top Hindi film dialogues, and then run away with a trans prostitute.)

But there's nobody who can match up to Vijay Raaz and Deepak Dobrial. Their conversations include a plan to rob their own boss of money. Meanwhile, Kunaal and Sobhita get stuck in a club during a drug bust. Now here comes the million dollar question: how is all this going to tie up?

Still from Kaalakaandi

Still from Kaalakaandi

There's a lot to love in Kaalakaandi: you never get the sense that Saif is the "star" in the film, as each parallel track is given its due time. Even though all the stories play out really fast — if you blink, you might miss something — it has enough to allow you to put two and two together.

Giving away more from the core plot of Kaalakaandi would be criminal because it's not one that can be the expressed in words. It's an experience, and a crazy one at that (I'm running out of synonyms for crazy).

Saif is in top form: bringing the laughs, the intrigue and requisite amount of drama. Sobhita Dhulipala as an uptight but smart, urban woman brings a unique flavour to the ensemble cast. Kunaal Roy Kapur and the combination of Vijay Raaz-Deepak Dobriyal are delights to watch. Neil Bhoopalam as a movie-loving thug is almost unrecognisable.

In the middle of all the madness in Kaalakaandi, some lessons are doled out. For one, nobody seems to be judging anyone else in this film's universe: drugs, sex cheating, prostitution? It's cool; live and let live is the mantra of the film. And in these tightly wound times, it's refreshing to see a film wear its open-mindedness on its sleeve.

Most of the film's dialogues are spoken in English but it doesn't feel forced. If anything, it's an acknowledgement of the myriad people you find in this cosmopolitan city.

Sometimes the madness becomes a bit much, and goes off track, almost confusing you, but it picks back up. I hate to admit that Kunaal Roy Kapur seems to be the weakest link in this well performing cast.

Yes, Saif Ali Khan is at the centre of the film. But so is Mumbai; the city makes for the glue that ties everything together, almost reflecting off the characters. Then there's the music, which doesn't overpower but gives you a foil to make your way through the labyrinth-like plot.

But the biggest win for Kaalakaandi is Akshat Verma: his voice as a director is unique. This industry needs more films like Kaalakaandi.

Updated Date: Jan 12, 2018 14:39 PM