Sunday, May 15, 2011

#120: Shagird

Shagird written by Kamal Pandey and Tigmanshu Dhulia is a thriller based on the politico-crime nexus in Delhi. The movie stars Nana Patekar as a dishonest cop for a change and a welcome change at that for two reasons. One, for the brilliant actor that Nana Patekar is, he is doing far fewer films than his prowess deserves. Secondly, till now we had only seen Nana as the honest rebellious cop who was all set to take on the system and we know he can sleepwalk through a movie playing that role. Yet what's nice about Hanumant Singh in Shagird is that in spite of the late-90s hangover of Nana with a cropped haircut and the salt and pepper beard in a khaki attire, you are served something that's refreshingly different from the days of yore.

Hanumant Singh is the kind of cop who bribes his own ilk on their traffic beat to get away at a signal. He leads a team of the ruthless Delhi Crime Branch who will kill anyone as long as they can get some money out of it. As a fearless but corrupt cop, Hanumant has no qualms in encounter killing the so-called criminals even in front of news channels and as a leader his team loves his ways because his autocracy comes into play only when he has a gun in hand. Shagird, thankfully, is not a one-pony show. Apart from Hanumant, it is the character of mafia don Bunty Bhaiyya (Anurag Kashyap) that works as pivot around which the story is built. Bunty's capture early on in the movie sets the cat amongst the political pigeons of the government and in particular the cunning external affairs minister Rajmani played by the brilliant Zakir Hussain. Since Bunty has too many secrets to spill, Rajmani instructs Hanumant to kill Bunty. Hanumant is all set to play along except that he has got an agenda of his own. Enter the new member in the Crime Branch team, Mohit Ahlawat, an upright inductee who won't bite the bullet along with the rest of the team whether it's in terms of recklessly killing the bad guys or in sharing the rewards of a job.

The best of Shagird is the last 20 minutes whereby an engrossing cat-and-mouse game between Rajmani and Hanumant Singh emerges in all it's glory. Their oneupmanship towards the second half makes for a mouth-watering setup for the climax. As the intricate traps they've set for one another start coming to the fore, the action becomes more and more arresting. Nana Patekar essays the larger-than-life Hanumant with as much elan as simplicity. There are a couple of those typical Nana scenes that you want to clap and whistle to and while he's at it you know the man hasn't lost his touch. Mohit Ahlawat, however, is a disappointment more massive than the Black Hole. Shagird means a protege and Mohit in spite of this opportunity to play the title role had too little conviction in his performance let alone energy. His frozen performance could put an Eskimo to shame. Part of the blame for his ineffectiveness also lies with the writers who have a shabbily loose backstory to tell us about his childhood at a dinner party. If that wasn't bad, wait till you watch the scene in which his love interest Rimi walks into his room. When he confesses his feeling towards Rimi, you want to squirm in agony, the cheese quotient being higher than in all of Italy. Zakir Hussain, on the other hand, is a complete show-stealer.

The genre of crime, evidently is a comfort zone for Tigmanshu Dhulia, who had previously directed the much-loved Haasil. With the erratically impressive Shagird, he undoubtedly cements that reputation but one will have to say the movie was also a case of a missed opportunity. Fifteen minutes tighter, someone else instead of Mohit Ahlawat, some mature writing and we would've had our rare Bollywood crime classic. But even for what it is, it does deserve an applause. You needn't make it a standing ovation but surely the well-played kinds.

Rating: 6.9/10