THIS POST WILL CONTAIN SPOILERS ABOUT VISHAL BHARADWAJ’S FILM “KAMINEY“. YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED.
Ladies and gentlemen, put your hands together for Mr. Vishal Bharadwaj. Not just because he’s taken a story as pulpy as a ten-day-old banana and turned it into a pacy, gritty film. And not because he’s drawn out of Shahid Kapur and Priyanka Chopra strong, realistic performances (when Chopra clutches the police officer’s leg and grovels piteously, she really is grovelling; it’s not the photogenic stunt of most weeping Bollywood heroines). There’s a lot that’s good fun in “Kaminey”. It’s very well-paced and equally well-told. Bharadwaj weaves his way between humour and terror like an adolescent biker cutting through traffic. His dialogues are superb as is his use of music, as usual. Mumbai looks oily, greasy, grimy and Bharadwaj’s cinematographer makes great use of a blue-tinted palette that makes everything just a bit sharper and bleaker. The cast is stellar, particularly the supporting cast. The cold-eyed Angolans, the smiling Tashi, the shiny Bhope, every character is neatly-etched and the actors do a fantastic job with their roles. But for me, “Kaminey” is a landmark because in it Vishal Bharadwaj has given us, without any shoo-sha and with lots of subtlety, our first gay love story.
“Kaminey” is technically the story of two identical twins, Guddu and Charlie (both played by Shahid Kapur). Guddu stammers and follows the straight and narrow. Charlie works for a bunch of Bengali gangsters and has a lisp that has him pronouncing all s’s as f’s. Net result, when I was coming out of the film yesterday, I was surrounded by girls gushing, “Shahid is so effing fexy!” or “Omigod, he’f fo awefum.” The stutterer’s crown remains with Shah Rukh K-k-k-khan in “Darr” because sweet as Guddu is, “Kaminey” is not his movie even though he gets the girl and plants on her the first solidly realistic kiss I’ve seen in Bollywood. Despite the flying bullets, the grimy chawls, the sweating cops and the fantastic universe of criminals, “Kaminey” is actually the love story of Charlie and Mikhail (played superbly by Chandan Roy Sanyal).
I’m amazed that only one person out of all the early birds picked up the gay vibe in the relationship between Charlie and Mikhail. Perhaps it’s because neither Mikhail nor Charlie had any limp wrists or rainbow-coloured accessories. But theirs is the classic romantic setup. Mikhail is the youngest of three brothers who destroy the stereotype of the Bengali bhadralok by being disgustingly energetic and storming into the last scene like Rambo. Charlie works for them and shares a special kinship with Mikhail. Of course, right on top Vishal Bharadwaj’s script has Charlie refer to Mikhail as a brother however I can’t remember the last time I saw brothers sing duets and dance in the rain, clutching to each other and leaning close to look deep into the other’s eyes. The chemistry between Mikhail and Charlie could put Nargis and Raj Kapoor to shame. It crackles and makes your breath catch as they claw at each other, particularly in the scene where Charlie tells Mikhail about his stash of cocaine. They lunge at each other, using violence almost as though it’s some kind of foreplay followed by — you guessed it— some rolling around on the floor. To celebrate, they go dancing and it’s impossible to not think of all the girl-boy dance scenes that Bollywood has had in clubs while watching Mikhail and Charlie shake a leg to the pounding beat of “Dhan te Nan”. They literally chase each other (once on foot and once with Mikhail in a snazzy red sports car when Charlie and he race each other in the rain. The scene would leave Freud shivering with a billion interpretations) and end up in each other’s arms. By the end of the movie, it’s difficult to say whether Charlie does what he does for his brother or to avenge Mikhail’s murder. Especially since the only time we see Charlie break down is when Mikhail is killed and ultimately, he keeps Mikhail alive forever by calling his business venture “Mikhail & Co.” Charlie even steals a diamond for him. If that isn’t true cinematic love, I don’t know what is.