John Day Movie Review: Taut And Gripping!
Rarely does Indian cinema come up with thrillers that appeal to both heart and mind, giving the protagonist an emotional jeopardy to surmount, and in the process, unravel a mystery that keeps you at the edge of your seat. John Day is one such rare example, produced by Anjum Rizvi, K Asif and Aatef Khan, and directed by debutant director Ahishor Solomon. Taut and gripping, with a riveting performance by Naseeruddin Shah as the eponymous character, an ordinary bank manager who gets drawn into a conspiracy after his daughter’s tragic death, the film unfolds at a calculative pace, building up to a nerve-shattering climax.
Shah’s antagonist is the able Randeep Hooda, playing the corrupt cop Gautam, a fixer with a dark and violent upbringing that has thrown its own shadow on his amoral present. Both get embroiled in the central conspiracy linked to Day’s daughter’s death and the bank robbery at Day’s bank that follows, and both tracks pursue separate narratives, building up, crossing paths, and ultimately converging with twists and turns new to the Indian cinema format.
Director Solomon does not fall prey to standard cinematic storytelling, blurring the line between good and evil, as the protagonist Day slowly dons the robe of the antagonist, while the antagonist Gautam realizes a ray of humanity and love he had completely blocked from his cruel existence. Without giving away much in this review that can spoil the movie experience, the suspense is extremely well maintained as the mystery unravels, and we realize the true reason of Day’s daughter’s death.
Shernaz Patel as Maria Day, the grief-stricken mother trying to come to terms with her grave loss, is excellent, going through her own tragedy during the bank robbery that follows, and Sharat Saxena as the villainous Khan, searching for redemption and salvation, inflicting pain upon himself to absolve his soul of its rotten existence, at the heart of the conspiracy, is both fearsome and pitiful, ably fleshing out the dichotomy of his existence.
The love interest is the beautiful Elena Kazan as the disturbed lover of Gautam, yearning for a family, and drowning herself in alcohol to dull the need of motherhood and the fear of losing her sanity and love, working with Gautam in his criminal endeavor, to gather enough to escape the city for respite. And the cop aiding Gautam in his criminal enterprise is the able Vipin Sharma of Taare Zameen Par fame (the father to Darsheel Safary’s Ishaan), who joins the force in order to make a difference, and along the way gets drowned in the corruption that invades the veins of the police.
Though the film is a bit dark, and throws up some questions about the character motivations that are not spelt out, like the child-abuse angle of Gautam, the film works immensely well with its involving narrative, and it says just enough for the viewer to buy into the actions of all players. The background score by Sandeep Chowta fills some of the gaps in the pace by building up the momentum, and the deft editing lends itself well to the drama created. Maybe a little too much was left on the editing floor in an effort to keep the pace up, which the general viewer would appreciate, but the viewer looking for a more detailed explanation may miss some deliberation that such central characters present.
Experience John Day, it will be worth more than the price of admission.