Cast: Sharib Hashmi, Inaamulhaq, Kumud Mishra, Gopal Dutt
Director: Nitin Kakkar
Filmistaan is a love story. And for once it really is hatke. Sunny Arora (Sharib Hashmi), who sits in a rented apartment in phainte-walle pajame, dipping his biscuit in chai and asking his room-mate for money, keeps auditioning for two-bit roles in films. Mimicry is his USP. He imitates all, but Sunny paaji is his most favourite.
Mostly he doesn’t get a call back. But then, one day, he gets hired as an AD-cum-production hand to work with an American crew which is travelling to Rajasthan to shoot a documentary on infiltration from across the border.
Shooting has barely begun when Pakistani Islamic militants cast their net to take the Americans hostage. Instead, they catch Sunny.
This scene, like many others in the film, is knitted with a ball of irony. Militants grimace at the pathetic figure of an unconscious, ungainly Sunny in the back of their jeep. With the goras they would have had negotiating power. But who will be bothered about some Sunny Arora from Mumbai? The shame and pointlessness of being a nobody is drilled deep.
The kidnappers lock up Sunny in a house in a border Pakistani village, with two militants guarding him — Mehmood (Kumud Mishra) and Jawaad (Gopal Dutt) — while the rest return to get the Americans. This house belongs to a family of three men — father and his two sons. Elder son, Aftaab (Inaamulhaq), is in the business of pirated CDiyan — Bollywood and porn, mostly. His clients include Pakistani border police.
Bollywood keeps both men alive, and they connect over it, talking of the Khans and the Kapoors.
To Mehmood, the senior militant, films and songs are haraam, and he finds Sunny particularly irritating. When he’s called kafir, kanjar, Sunny ignores it. But when Bollywood is called manhoos, he reacts.
Aftaab organises film shows for the villagers on a TV set. One night Aftaab plays Maine Pyaar Kiya on his TV for the village. Sunny is like a restless chimp. He begs Mehmood to let him out, Mehmood ignores him.
Sunny is resourceful, drawing tricks and rejoinders from Bollywood to serve life and the situations it throws up.
So from a blind distance, Sunny starts regaling himself with the film’s dialogues till Mehmood is so pakaoed that he lets him out. The CD’s audio fails and Sunny comes to Aftaab’s rescue. In this one scene, with the villages’ open mouths and shifting expressions to mimic the emotion on screen, the power of cinema, of Bollywood, is captured and conveyed very touchingly.
Sunny entertains the village’s kids, gets shot, but doesn’t stop overacting. In fact, when he has to make his own hostage video for the Indian authorities, he takes over as director, and keeps going in for retakes, being choosy about location, extras, props.
Sunny’s craziness endears him to the villagers, especially Aftaab, and the bond that forms between them is the sort that’s usually seen between lovers. A plan is made to shove Sunny across the border that involves Aftaab directing the love story of Razia and Razak.
Whether Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid make it across the border is not important. What is important is what the film says: “Janab, Sirji, jab ladne ko kahoge toh lad-lenge. Par kabhi-kabhi toh ek saath baith-kar hasne do, rone do, cinema dekhne do”.
Nitin Kakkar’s Filmistaan, which won the National Award for the Best Feature Film in Hindi, 2012, has the informality, spontaneity and energy of a jam session between accomplished men who play off and for each other. Sharib Hashmi and Nitin Kakkar are both from the TV industry.
Nitin Kakkar has set his film in a village that squats in a hostile, barren sea of desert sand. There are no intervening voices, no propaganda, no politicians. Just gun-toting men. The perfect, fertile ground for friendship between two men who are completely powerless.
Filmistaan tickles and touches in a way that few Indian films manage to. The film is funny and though sometimes it tips on the side of cheesy, mostly it’s a simple idea riding on a clever screenplay with dialogue, by Sharib Hashmi, that pack in emotions irony and politics.
Music director Arijit Dutta uses music to the film’s advantage, at times giving it a pulse.
Sharib Hashmi’s Sunny Arora is not the film’s hero. Nor is Inaamulhaq’s Aftaab. In fact, no one is. The film’s idea is the hero. That’s why each character gets the space (it’s an all male cast) the script demands, and all are efficient.