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Kaalakaandi movie review LIVE: Mumbai is as much a character in this film as Saif Ali Khan
From the Wed Desk, 12/01/2018, Mumbai


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, a kidnapping, car races through Mumbai's seedy underbelly, and a smattering of good ol' sex.

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, 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, also one of Saif's friends, 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 a 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 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?


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