Considered to be inspired by Film Noir, Sriram Raghavan's Johnny Gaddaar was a gritty, slick and dark thriller that Neil Nitin Mukesh (son of playback singer Nitin Mukesh) was lucky to get his break in! I heard a lot about Johnny Gaddaar before I saw it, and I can't believe I delayed watching it as long as I did. Right from the start I was drawn in by the funky title sequence, the nods to Amitabh's Parwana and director Vijay Anand's Johnny Mera Naam. Writer James Hadley Chase is also an inspiration, as noted at the start of the film and seen in the overall style of the film.
The film starts with its climax, and then reverts to a flashback which is the bulk of the film. Flashbacks within the flashback are also used skillfully. The main storyline is that a group of men running a gambling den together, who also engage in some drug smuggling deals. Vikram (Neil Nitin Mukesh) is the youngest member of the group. He's secretly having an affair with the wife (Rimi Sen) of one of the most volatile members of their gang, Shardul (Zakir Hussain - no, not the tabla player!).
The other members of the gang are their unofficial leader Seshadri (WOOT! Dharmendra), Prakash (Vinay Pathak), and Shiva (Dayanand Shetty).
Meanwhile Prakash and Shardul, who are often at loggerheads, fall into another argument over Prakash's gambling debts. Prakash has borrowed a significant sum from his wife's beauty salon business to cover his gambling. His wife, Varsha (Ashwini Khalsekar), is extremely suspicious of his business dealings and worries constantly about the money being drawn from her salon. Prakash promises her that he will never risk her salon. Their relationship is portrayed with a realism we rarely see in Bollywood films, and Ashwini truly shines in her role. She is excitable, hot-tempered and passionate.
Prakash loses another large sum and asks for Vikram and Shardul to cover his losses. Shardul is infuriated, but eventually agrees. In the exchange of money, a certain amount is determined to be counterfeit (put in by Prakash, who had fallen short of his 50 lakh contribution in the group deal). Prakash takes the resurfacing of these counterfeit notes as proof that Shardul is the thief. Shardul meanwhile suspects Prakash, neither of them considering that Vikram is the actual culprit. Prakash reveals his suspicions (confirmation, in his eyes) about Shardul to Varsha and to Vikram. Vikram panics once again, and finds himself completely in over his head.
Vikram is breaking down slowly, but now Shardul is his only obstacle. Shardul eventually realizes that Vikram is behind all of the madness, not Prakash. He mentions his plans to "get" Vikram for what he's done to his wife, Mini, who freaks out thinking that he knows about their affair. She desperately tries to get a hold of Vikram to warn him that Shardul is coming for him, and their showdown leads to the final scenes (which we saw at the beginning of the film). Who survives? Who deals the final blow? Well I have tried my best to remain spoiler-free in this recap, so I won't answer those questions ...
I really enjoyed this film. The cinematography, the editing, the nods to Film Noir and 70s Hindi Cinema, the crime drama and the suspense all came together beautifully. Vikram's desperate attempts to fix the situation simply spiral him further and further into the mess he's created. Despite Neil Nitin Mukesh's somewhat wooden and amateur performance, the other elements definitely create the sense of urgency needed to draw you in to the story. Still, Vikram's character is problematic. He's an anti-hero ... flawed and guilty. Though it's Vikram that carries you through the story, you never quite root for him.
|"You thought I could act!"|
|Well, wouldn't EVERY girl be thrilled to have this guy as her pati-parameshwar?|
|I don't know if I was put off by their chemistry or her hair ...|
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|Awww yeah Dharamji!|