Mumbai, 14 Dec 2017 14:59 IST
Updated: 15 Dec 2017 0:05 IST
Amit Kumar's film is a well-crafted noir thriller balanced on the cliff of an infinite moment.
'Two roads diverged in a wood / And I took the one less traveled by' said the American poet Robert Frost. In Amit Kumar's thrilling Monsoon Shootout, there are three paths set before a rookie cop and one infinite second to make a choice. Taut, thrilling, and paced with the skill of Usain Bolt racing the 100 metre circuit, the film is an entertaining work of cinema worth ending the year with.
The story revolves around Adi (Vijay Varma), a young cop who is on field trial. He is ordered to assist Khan (Neeraj Kabi, fantastic), a dry, Machiavellian officer who will get his criminal by hook or crook. Khan is currently on the heels of the dreaded Shiva (Nawazuddin Siddiqui), an assassin of the slum lord Dawar, who has been threatening builders in Mumbai.
Khan sets his trap, and Adi joins him on his first encounter. Except, things go wrong. Facing Shiva in the torrential Mumbai rains, Adi has a choice — to let him go, shoot him down, or find a middle road. Each decision leads to the same end — Adi is consigned to a desk job. But as his superiors ask him each time, does the end justify the means?
Director Kumar's film opened to rave reviews at the midnight screening at the Cannes film festival 2013, and rightly so. The director builds a Rashomon-like tale that analyses the three solutions with equanimity. The plot, however, is predictable, in that there are only three choices available to Adi. All of which can be guessed. But the magic lies in the way these stories unfold.
The script does not allow the audience time to breathe, keeping it engrossed in the events taking place. With each decision, we are drawn into the complexities of the characters and the layered world they inhabit. When the film veers away from its primary characters, it expands the area of impact and allows us to glimpse into the lives of many others tied to Shiva and Adi. Chhotu, Shiva's son, makes for a fascinating and emotional part of the story. Through all this, the characters Adi, Shiva and Khan remain true to their personalities, with varying results.
Yet, this is not an indie film devoid of any commercial element. The drama is tied up with moments of emotion and dry humour, and the sweet romance between Adi and Anu (Geetanjali Thapa) adds to the entertainment value.
As for the actors, Siddiqui displays a natural energy and animal fury as Shiva. The actor's turn is enigmatic despite the memory of his recent performance as Raman in Raman Raghav 2.0 (2016). He inhabits every inch of the screen without overpowering the script. It is his eyes that remain the most dominant performers. Of the few punchlines in the film, Siddiqui delivers his with panache and nonchalance.
On the other side is Kabi's ruthless Khan. Kabi layers his character with a heavy, confident silence. This is a man who does not speak much but is certain of what he says and does. He is a wise mentor and knows the ways of the world. His cynicism is born of his experience and just as true as Shiva's own knowledge of the world.
Sandwiched between these two powerful performers, Vijay Varma delivers ably as the rookie cop Adi. His simple but nuanced performance is the perfect foil to the extremes of Khan and Shiva. The actor plays the many dimensions of Adi with astute certainty. On him lies the burden of the film's pivotal moment which he manages with ease. The slight deviations for each alternative timeline endow him with pessimism, ambiguity, guilt, and desperation — all characteristics of a noir hero.
There are also the able supporting performances of Tannishtha Chatterjee and Thapa who play the women in Shiva and Adi's lives, respectively. They offer a more holistic view of these personalities beyond their conflict zone, adding to the drama.
Monsoon Shootout is also a visual delight. The cinematography of Rajeev Ravi (also director of the 2016 Malayalam hit Kammatipadam) adds another dimension to the script. The pale yellow streetlights, the red tint of the brothel, the neon blue of the hospital are all colours that come to define particular emotions of each scene. The play of shadow and light is also used to great effect through the film.
Through it all, there is the rain. Incessant, troublesome, soothing, it is a constant throughout the film. In the rain is hidden the magic of the film's sound design.
With all this, director Amit Kumar has managed to create a film that speaks truth to the world. Embedded within its gripping drama are a few truths that stand out. The helplessness of following the law by the book, the struggle of trying to maintain order in an uncivilized world, and the morally ambiguous nature of the task are all touched upon. The director lets them simmer below the surface of this bubbling pot. This is one shootout not to be missed.