Mumbai, 25 Aug 2017 12:00 IST
Poor screenplay, shoddy dialogues, and shallow performances reduce Habib Faisal's Qaidi Band to a flop show.
Civil society has no place for the outlaw. The guilty ought to be put behind bars, but not every imprisoned soul is a criminal. The guilt has to be proved first. Law permits an accused to get bail, provided the charge is bailable. But until guilt is proved, you remain an undertrial.
A populous developing country like India faces shortage of courts and judges. Add to it the slow judicial system and overcrowded jails and that explains why two-thirds of all prisoners in India are undertrials, as per the ‘Prison Statistics India 2015’ report filed by the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB).
Often Hindi film jail dramas are shackled by melodrama. There is a Hitler-like jailor, poorly hatched jailbreaks, brawling inmates, and a fight that often breaks out when someone jumps queue at the lunch table, the classic example being Bob Christo’s famous dialogue “Hum jahan khade hote hain, line wahin shuru hoti hai” from Kaalia (1981)
It was easy to dub these jail dramas as far removed from reality. Then again, how does civil society know what really transpires inside India's jails? Thus a tale on the plight of the undertrials languishing in prison promised to unshackle some truth.
Director Habib Faisal’s Qaidi Band, though, is no ordinary plea of the undertrial. The talented inmates of Tihar jail’s Flying Souls band inspired Faisal to create his jailhouse rock drama, Qaidi Band. Playing it safe, however, Faisal steers clear of mentioning where his jail is located.
Sanju (Aadar Jain), Bindu (Anya Singh), Rufi (Mikhail Yawalkar), Maskeen (Prince Parvindner Singh) and the Nigerian Ogu (Peter Muxka Manuel) are languishing in a prison, each accused of various crimes, some of the charges very flimsy. All seek bail, save Sanju, who seems hell-bent on emulating the late Machung Lalung, who spent 54 years in an Assam jail as an undertrial. All of them have one thing in common: they don’t have money to bail themselves out.
Hope comes in an unlikely form when the jailor Dhulia (Sachin Pilgaonkar) announces a musical programme scheduled for Independence Day (15 August) that will be graced by a local politician. Sanju, Bindu & Company clear the auditions and set a date with destiny. Dhulia names the band Sainanis. The show is a hit, with the media spreading the good word about the Sainanis. Freedom is in sight, but all hopes are dashed when the local politician wants to use the popularity of the Sainanis to his advantage till the next election. So, they ought to remain in jail. Dhulia threatens the band with dire consequences if they don’t obey.
Soon the Sainanis get trained by a popular rock band Middle Finger, who inform them of a prestigious rock contest which carries a prize money of Rs50 lakh. They see this contest as their bailout with the cash prize being enough to hire the services of top criminal defence lawyer Naveen Vachani (Ram Kapoor).
Now, perhaps, here is a jail drama that promises to break the shackles with its defined story, penned by both Faisal and Sanjay Sharma. However, Qaidi Band pans out into another boring, annoying, uninspiring melodrama. The fine story isn’t backed by a taut screenplay. And the principal inmates deserve to be sent to the gallows for their hollow performances.
Apart from the main leads Sanju and Bindu, the other members of the band include a Sikh, a Nigerian, a Muslim accused of abetting terrorism, a Nagaland woman mocked as Chini (Chinese), and a Belorussian woman. The Sikhs, Muslims, Northeasterner and East European woman bear the burnt of poor stereotypes. The prejudices do exist, but it wasn’t prudent on the part of Faisal to bring all such stereotyped characters under one roof. Their sob story lacks conviction and each of the characters only makes you cringe. Mikhail Yawalwar, who plays Rufi, is an eyesore. Sachin Pilgaonkar lacks intensity as the dictatorial jailor Dhulia.
With a poor supporting cast, the pressure was all on the two main protagonists to save the film. However, only Anya Singh emerges unscathed from this disaster. The Delhi girl is the lone artiste to have understood the depth of her character. There is a grieving intensity and aggression about her that you really don’t associate with a rank newcomer. She has an air of confidence about her, which will hold her in good stead for future projects.
There is nothing really to write home about Singh’s co-star Aadar Jain. He is undercooked, over-ecstatic and unconvincing for the most part. The poor guy was trolled when he had a projection of his grandfather, the legendary actor-filmmaker Raj Kapoor, on his T-shirt at the trailer launch. Sadly, after an ordinary performance in his maiden film, the barbs of nepotism will hang about his head.
A better cast might have saved Qaidi Band the blushes, but Faisal falters with his shoddy screenplay as well. Much of the first half is too fast paced, tacky, laced with boring melodrama. The biggest cheer is drawn from a scene where a TV journalist cries, “Aaj chhutti ke din bhi kaam karna pad raha hai”. The second half beats the first to boredom, with the director totally losing the plot. The predictable climax and overdose of melodrama will have you at wit’s end.
While the central characters are poor, how do you explain Faisal naming a band Middle Finger? The less said about Middle Finger members the better. The film also suffers from poor music. The 'I Am India' track is simply unfit to be called a jailhouse anthem. The 'Hulchul' track is the lone song that comes across as music to the ear. Also, while Tihar jail’s Flying Souls did get some media attention, they did not turn into singing stars. Faisal is guilty of exaggerating the impact of his Sainanis.
A poor screenplay, shoddy dialogues, and shallow performances reduce Qaidi Band to a flop show. Faisal and his Sainanis are guilty of melodrama and deserve to be sent to the gallows. The local politician in the film says, "Election jeetna ho ya phir film hit karna ho toh phir youth ko jeetna hai [Be it winning an election or making a hit film, to succeed you need to win the youth over]." While elections are for the politicians to figure, the youth are not likely to be amused by Faisal’s Qaidi Band.
The dreadful show by Qaidi Band will have the makers of Lucknow Central also worried. While their tagline is “Plan kuch hai”, after Qaidi Band, one is likely to get a sense of deja vu on visiting Farhan Akhtar's film.