03 October, 2011

A new genre in cinema UP: Sahib Biwi aur Gangster, a review

There is a new geography in popular Hindi cinema today, Uttar Pradesh. We have had Romantic films, Comedies, and Action cinema from here but arguably the most popular have been those films that have used this geography and its peculiar nexus of Politics, Underworld social ethos in the hinterlands as a backdrop. So popular is it that this has almost attained the status of becoming a genre.

Genre, I must be kidding right? Take a look at some of the films that have been released in the recent and middle past and take a call. Vishal Bharadwaj’s stable has given us Maqbool, Omkara, Ishqiya; Anand Rai’s Tanu Weds Manu; Prakash Jha’s  Gangajal, Apaharan, Rajneeti & Aarakshan. Tigmanshu Dhulia made a smooth debut as a director with his first film “Haasil” which was an excellent display of the politics on college campuses in the state. This film jump started the career of Irfan Khan for his chilling performance as a student leader. Tigmanshu Dhulia made some other films in between like Charas which didn’t shake the box office but with his latest “Sahib Biwi aur Gangster” it would be surprising if he is not recognized as a director of serious merit even at the cash counters.

“Sahib Biwi aur Gangster” as a title is a take-off on the Guru Dutt films production directed by Abrar Alvi titled Sahib Bibi aur Ghulam. The inspiration sure is from the earlier film but it is in the adaptation of the storyline where the similarities end. This is without a doubt a triumph of the script.

The plot is clear, fast paced and finely nuanced. It hinges around the three principle characters of the Sahib ( Jimmy Shegill, in superb form as an erstwhile prince riding on the borders of financial peril), Biwi ( Mahie Gill, his manic, scheming queen , competent) and the gangster Babloo ( Randeep Hooda, the ambitious goon cum driver, excellently underplayed). The Sahib is scrambling to regain his lost glory through the route of tender contracting and even contract killing for money to achieve the ultimate aim of a political victory. He has to for this, seek favours from a politician he helped elect ( Rajiv Gupta, absolutely standout performance in its smooth oiliness ) and a rival contractor mafia goon Gainda Singh ( Vipin Sharma, a natural who looks the part ). The sahib has his coterie of loyalists who abound the palace grounds; his protective shadow and trusted bodyguard Kanhaiyya ( Deepraj Rana , very convincing) his saucy daughter who cannot stop talking ( Deepal Shaw, a wee bit over the top but palatable) and his mistress ( Shreya Narayan, a sensitive and sensual performer). 

The story line centers on the Raja in his quest and shifts to the plotting Begum. Babloo is planted into this household by Gainda Singh as an informer. He has a tryst with the Begum. The Begum has her own agenda to retain the Sahib in the haveli and wean him away from the mistress. These are the plots and sub plots that are so skillfully weaved in that one waits for the next unexpected turn quite vicariously, and it comes with a punch.

The characters are deeply etched and masterfully executed which show the directors grip on the storyline. It is almost Brian De Palmaisque in its treatment. The backdrop of UP is now familiar yet the locales chosen for staging this drama are beautiful , stark and lonely. The camera by Aseem Mishra ( Once Upon a Time in Mumbai fame ) captures this so finely yet stays in the background bringing the characters to the fore of a beautiful frame. This is elegant camera work. Another technician who stands out in this venture is the sound designer Rakesh Ranjan. Music ( Songs ) does not overpower but the compositions in the audio track are powerful. They shall not be hummed popularly for sure but savored by aficionados who shall admire the compositions and keep wondering in which film did they hear it in. 


This movie though is through and through a directors cut, for the manner in which he has extracted performances from his lead trio that are beyond what they have shown us so far in their careers. For this alone Tigmanshu Dhulia can very well stand up and take a bow. When one sees this plot of layered agendas it is not surprising to understand the buzz in the industry created for his next “Pan Singh Tomar”. 

3 comments:

Soul Images said...

Well written....

The crimes of passion.... scripted so nicely. I love the manipulations and the scheming that each one of them indulges in.

Kau Kau goes the Crow said...

It is a beautiful script. Classical storytelling with detailing attended to that takes it from the realms of the ordinary.

The Script is the real hero of the film. :-)

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