Movie review 'Meeruthiya Gangsters': A morally rickety fun ride

Meeruthiya Gangsters is from the same family tree as Paanch, Shaitan and others

Cast: Jaideep Ahlawat, Aakash Dahiya, Vansh Bhardwaj, Shadab Kamal, Chandrachoor Rai, Jatin Sarna, Mukul Dev, Sanjay Mishra, Nushrat Bharucha, Ishita Sharma, Brijendra Kala, Malkhan Singh, Soundarya Sharma
Director: Zeishan Quadri
Rating: 3 stars

Writer-director Zeishan Quadri is very smart and prolific. He wrote Gangs of Wasseypur, acted in it, and has now written and directed Meeruthiya Gangsters. But, he is a graduate from the Anurag Kashyap School of Filmmaking where, it’s quite obvious, all boys take an oath on a DVD pack of Quentin Tarantino’s movies and then sing, with Little Peggy March’s determined bounce:
“I love him, I love him, I love him
And where he goes I’ll follow, I’ll follow, I’ll follow
I will follow himmmm, follow him wherever he may gooo
There isn’t an ocean too deep
A mountain so high it can keep, keep me away… away from my love...”

Unlike director Sanjay Gupta’s Kaante (2002), which was a rather dingy copy of Reservoir Dogs, Quadri’s film is a homage to that film. It has a story to tell, its own story that’s rooted in the place it is set in — Meerut, a third-tier city, Delhi’s second cousin, twice removed. It’s an interesting story and it belongs to its characters. But the style it chooses to tell this story is borrowed. Intelligently, yes. And fun. But it’s not germane to its story and people.

Meeruthiya Gangsters begins like Reservoir Dogs, with a 360° pan around six boys seated around a table and chatting. Unlike the colour-coded cool dogs, these Meerut boys are ordinary, not so ornery. They talk of “setting”, i.e. girlfriend, a love interest, and are seemingly vagrant. Though they have families and homes, though they are final-year college students, they are located only in this fringe group in this fringe city which has a stench of dank morality.

They drink together, party together and are desperate together — for a job, a life, for their share of space in the world. It’s from this code that the six characters are cleverly drawn — different, yet tied to each other, bound by accident of birth and certainty of fate. Nikhil (Jaideep Ahlawat) is the group’s sensible head. Rahul (Chandrachoor Rai) is always drinking, always carrying an addha-paua.

Two boys have girlfriends — Gagan (Vansh Bhardwaj) and Sanjay Foreigner (Jatin Sarna). Foreigner — his eyes are blue and his hair bleached — is a simpering poodle around his mean girlfriend. He gets slapped around a lot but doesn’t mind. Mansi, Gagan’s girlfriend, is a classier chick, but very controlling. He’s cautious around her. Deferential even. Amit (Aakash Dahiya), most keen to slide out of the fringe, always has a plan. This time it’s about jobs for all. His friend Pooja will help, but first they have to put together some money. And that’s when the last of the six comes to the fore.

Sunny (Shadab Kamal), the silent one, is ruled by the kooky god of whimsy. It looks like he hangs around the gang disinterested, but he listens intently, and then he just can’t bear it. In an unknown second his patience runs out. And then he has to act. Immediately. He does so almost without knowing, and usually by breaking a bottle on another’s head. These boys have very limited means, and because they’ve literally emptied out their pockets for this one chance, when they come face to face with corporate greed and corruption, their mansik santulan, which was anyway a bit off, goes totally awry.

When they realise that there never really was a window for them to get to the other side, they turn gangsters. The success of one crime, planned and executed with the same commitment and attention to detail as a college cricket match, leads to another and… It’s a morally rickety ride, but because the film loves these oddball characters, it makes the “victims” creepy and their activities palatable. In any case, it’s all a breeze because the responsibility is evenly spread out amongst the six and, thus, individually miniscule. Somewhere along the way the story goes on a tangent to meet Sanjay’s Mama (played by Sanjay Mishra) who exists only to take us to R.K. Singh (Mukul Dev), a Noida cop who is never in uniform and wears his hair long with a week-old stubble. Singh really couldn’t be bothered about the damn world he languidly prowls on his bike. The camera keeps him in the margins of scenes and frames, but he’s riveting. Hot.

Meeruthiya Gangsters, a film about outliers — of our cities and the Bollywood of Johars, Chopras and Akhtars — suitably assigns all its main characters to actors we’ve seen in two-bit roles and craved more. These are actors who dwell briefly in the fringes of big films and yet shine. Thought not really, they are like the help of Karan Johar’s stars, the orderlies and office receptionists of Akhtar’s busybees. They are perfectly cast and all deliver sharp but not showy performances.

Though there is no hierarchy to their brilliance, Jaideep Ahlawat, Jatin Sarna and, of course, Mukul Dev stand out. They also have some of the film’s best lines. Quadri’s film has style, brio and quick, crackling dialogue (also by Quadri). Its almost frenetic pace matches the story it tells. Its clever screenplay, written by four people, gives the film a cadence and cacophony that it maintains for a long time. Regular scenes are woven with the characters’ fabulously farcical reality. And, like Tarantino, all assignments — the planning, the before, during and after — are duly conducted with delightfully digressive chatter and an ineptness intrinsic to this world. Nothing to rival the quarter-pounder jam session, of course, but their banter has a comical and colloquial flavour.

The film is unpredictable for a long time. And in the company of these six boys we happily tumble along, laughing and impressed by it all. But as it begins to wind down, as it gets on a fast schuss to the climax, it tenses up and goes bland, forgetting many essentials to the characters it had created. It’s still fun, but the fun is now episodic, not woven with the same hang-loose chutzpah. I have another, bigger issue with graduates from the Anurag Kashyap school of film. All of them have something new to say, but they also have something old, something borrowed and something blue.

Meeruthiya Gangsters is from the same family tree as Paanch, Shaitan and others. Though without the poetic choreography of bullets and death and without Suman Sridhar’s deep blue vocals, its ethos is of Anurag Kashyap’s world. These are boys we’ve met before. Many times. Boys who feel a guilty stirring at the sight of a bra hanging from a hook and are attracted to alpha men who exude power. The women these boys desire, as usual, sit a few notches above in class and smarts, are mysterious, controlling and the main cause of disaster. I like Kashyap’s graduates. They have interesting stories to tell. Stories they have lived. I just wish they’d get over their adolescence and grow up a bit. Stop being randy, rowdy boys all the time, because it’s so limiting and, after a while, boring.

( Source : deccan chronicle )
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