Bollywood review: ‘Filmistaan’ finds Salman Khan a fitting substitute

Nitin Kakkar’s directorial debut gives Indo-Pak border politics a clever, comical twist

Secretly we’ve all desired the life of a movie star, fantasizing our moments in the spotlight and enacting iconic movie scenes with fervor.

So, when the chubby Sunny erupts on the scene mouthing celebrated Bollywood lines, while contorting his cheek muscles and twisting his lips to express a world of make-believe, we instantly connect with him, deeply. Mainly because he flawlessly triggers the collective memory of a generation obsessed with Bollywood.

“A real actor is one who can bring alive a scene even without a dialogue,” he preaches.

Much in line with gifted Roberto Benigni’s heart-wrenching, yet oddly charming take on the gruesome Nazi torture, director and story writer Nitin Kakkar’s ‘Filmistaan’ tackles the Indo-Pak cross-border politics with humour.

Numerous filmmakers have fed off the hatred between the neigbhouring nations with gusto, but none so genuinely insightful like Nitin’s intensely layered screenplay. He illustrates how hatred between the two nations vanishes instantly over Salman Khan’s mushy affairs or Sunny Deol’s raging macho exploits, but re-emerges when they are pitted against each other on the cricketing field.

His linear narrative is simple, raw and effective, and has us hooked instantly.

We applaud the whims and fancies of our true-blue Bollywood addict Sunny, who despite his unconventional looks, depleting bank account and lack of movie offers, believes he’s got what it takes to make it big as an actor. His encyclopaedic memory-bank of Hindi dialogues is all that he’s got, and he flaunts it repeatedly, winning us over each time.

Things go haywire, when an extremist group accidentally take him hostage, instead of the American film crew he was working for.

Unsure of what to do with their unlikely prisoner, the terrorists are forced to keep Sunny under lock and key until their big bosses instruct more clarity.

Sunny is left to survive on the wrong side of the border, with two armed guards and a family unlinked with the terror.

How Hindi cinema delightfully impacts his days of captivity is what essentially forms the crux of ‘Filmistaan’, and this is where Nitin reveals his brilliance. And, he’s ably assisted by Subhransu Das’ arresting frames, and Sachindra Vats’ taut edits to keep ‘Filmistaan’ from crumbling at 117-minutes screen-time.

Actor Sharib Hashmi surrenders himself to Sunny, capturing his vulnerability, his obsession and undying resolve to survive with aplomb. There’s not a frame, not an emotion that he misjudges, displaying his immense grip over his craft.

You watch him delightfully slip into Salman for an impromptu act in ‘Maine Pyar Kiya’ or scripts his own hostage video unemotionally but flawlessly. You can’t help but laugh at his misery, because even Sunny seems cheerfully oblivious to his inevitable doom, and keeps his fears fairly concealed.

It’s not just his performance in front of the camera, Sharib’s even credited with penning the dialogues, lending genuineness  and warmth to our hero.

Apart from Salman Khan, Sunny connects perfectly with DVD piracy king Aftaab, who is forced to house him in captivity. Inaamulhaq lends exuberance to Aftaab, capturing his Bollywood dreams, unwavering loyalty and business acumen maturely.

It’s sidesplitting when you watch him lust over a movie camera, and how he attempts to film a bunch of novices for his movie, which he claims will win him world recognition.

Kumud Mishra is another feisty performer, giving the uncompromising terrorist his all. Despite his gruff exterior, there are moments when he unwillingly exposes his softer side. Gopal Dutt plays his able aid Jawwad, who innocently mouths “Roll. Rolling. Acting.” With fewer lines in his kitty, Dutt manages to let his kohl-smeared eyes do much of the talking skilfully.

For an (almost) all new cast and first-time director, it’s commendable how ‘Filmistaan’ creates a vibrant frame in spite of relying (rather heavily) on the clichéd Bollywood dream.

So, head to the cinemas, you won’t regret it.

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