Mumbai, 11 Apr 2019 21:00 IST
Filmmaker Soumitra Ranade gives an interesting spin to Saeed Akhtar Mirza’s cult film, but the execution leaves something to be desired.
In a chaotic world, is a man more susceptible to committing a crime? Can materialistic desires, or simply the yearning for revenge, push one to take an extreme step?
Driven by the latter impulse, Albert Pinto (Manav Kaul) meets local crime boss Satam (Amarjeet Amle). "Have you ever fired a gun or killed anyone," asks the perplexed gangster. "No," responds Pinto, “but I’ll learn.”
The angry man Pinto picks his kills and soon sets off on a road trip to Goa, accompanied by Satam’s man Nayar (Saurabh Shukla).
Filmmaker Soumitra Ranade, who had directed the fantasy film Jajantaram Mamantaram (2004), gives a modern spin to Saeed Akhtar Mirza’s critically acclaimed drama of the same title made back in 1980. Mirza’s film was a voice against unbridled capitalism. What binds the two Albert Pintos together, however, is their frustration with society and a system that suppresses the honest common man.
Almost 40 years on, the world is perhaps far more chaotic than it was in 1980, and so is Ranade’s Albert Pinto. One moment he is having a sane conversation with girlfriend Stella (Nandita Das) and the next he is unleashing his frustration, hitting out at the corrupt system, advising Stella that she is better off marrying her boss than a troubled mind like him.
In one scene, the couple is at a bookstore when Albert loses his cool seeing a news update on tainted politicians Jagtap (Jayshankar Tripathi) and Suryakant (Sunit Razdan) and vents his frustration even as the bemused customers and staff look on.
While on his way to Goa, Pinto’s eyes open up to the sleaze business along the highways. He now draws his own analogy of the world. The powerful men are like lusty, drunk truck drivers who crush and feast on the poor. He likens the abused Chhotu and his sister to dogs being crushed by the drivers while the vast middle-class population are crows that simply watch the tamasha.
Mirza’s Albert Pinto, played brilliantly by Naseeruddin Shah, had his frustrations, too, but he carried no demons. He did not hallucinate like Manav Kaul's Albert Pinto. While one empathizes with Kaul's Pinto, he does go overboard in his moaning. Make too much noise and any grievance is reduced to cribbing.
Mirza's Pinto was no rebel. The mill worker actually despises his mates. The transformation in Pinto occurs only when the tentacles of capitalism affect his family. In Ranade’s film, it is a personal loss that leaves Pinto disillusioned with life and society.
Much like the mercurial character he plays, Manav Kaul, too, ebbs and flows in his performance. As an actress, Nandita Das has kept a low profile in the past few years, doing the odd film here and there, and there is a feeling of rustiness in her show in Albert Pinto Ko Gussa Kyun Aata Hai? Das looks convincing in Pinto’s hallucinations but flat in the real world. Stella’s conversation with the cop while filing a missing complaint is also a bit too dramatic.
Mirza gave more substance to his Stella, played by Shabana Azmi. She battled patriarchy, had a voice of her own. Nandita Das's Stella, however, is largely reduced to Pinto's imagination.
A slightly different storyline meant there was not much scope for other characters like Kaul’s unemployed and troublesome brother Dominic or Stella’s boss Arvind. In fact, Albert here carries shades of Dominic as he, too, has quit his job.
Saurabh Shukla’s Nayar is an original character. He brings in some Haryanvi humour, but Nayar also intimidates with his lust. This is yet another impressive act by Shukla.
In a pleasant surprise, we don’t get stereotypical Christian characters in the film. Albert Pinto and Stella don't speak in the clichéd poor Hindi accents we have been subjected to by Christian characters in Hindi cinema before.
Ranade’s film rightly holds up a mirror to society, but it isn't backed up with a slick, consistent screenplay. There are moments when the film drags. Mirza's film rode on simple storytelling and earnest performances. Ranade’s takes the thriller route, but the loose ends hurt the film. With a runtime of barely 90 minutes, Ranade could have added some more thrill and drama. And, perhaps, played around with the climax a bit, made it a little less predictable.
As it stands, the film makes the viewer angry, because a promising project has not lived up to potential.
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