By Manisha Vardhan, MovieTalkies.com, 18 May 2007
Director Sanjay Khanduri has a problem. He does not know where to stop. Once you decide to take the ride, he just refuses to let you get off. And that in a nutshell is what plagues his Ek Chalis Ki Last Local. The film just rolls on and on, with incident after incident after character after character…! What could have been a satirical journey into the nightlife of Mumbai or a thriller, becomes a long, bizarre journey with no end in sight.
But to give Khanduri credit, the film begins on a promising note. We have a call centre executive Nilesh (Abhay Deol), who has just missed his last local home from Kurla station. He bumps into the lovely Madhu (Neha Dhupia), who’s missed her train to Vikroli as well. Armed with Rs 70 in his wallet, Nilesh decides to pass the time with Madhu -- all of two and a half hours—in a bar, until the first train troops out in the morning. The awkward situation between these two strangers stranded in desolate Kurla is worked out well. But once they enter the bar, the film goes berserk. It’s like a fast train headed, God only knows where.
So we have our protagonist Nilesh, stuck in a stuffy call centre, wanting to have it all – wine, women and money. He almost has it all on his plate – two and a half crore -- before he finds himself caught in the most bizarre of situations with the most bizarre characters, all in the space of one night. Reminds you of Sudhir Mishra’s Is Raat Ki Subaah Nahin, which was made quite a few years ago. However, the resemblance, if any, is purely cosmetic. The tone is quite different and somehow the journey through the night for Mishra’s characters was more desperate, and hence more heartfelt. Khanduri’s characters seem to be out of a comic book. They are cardboard characters with no dimensions to them.
We have a typical gambling den, behind the dance bar reminding you of the many such dens haunted by Ajit and his ilk in the Sixties and the Seventies. The décor has pictures of Lord Ayappa staring at you from every nook and corner. Wonder if someone is going to take an exception to that? The list goes on: a dance bar, the corrupt cops, who will stage an encounter for a peti; the gore loving mindless hoodlums, gunning people down at the drop of a hat. And of course, the seemingly heartless whore, with a heart. Khanduri spares no one. He captures all the possible characters of the Hindi film in as clichéd a fashion as possible.
The film had a lot of potential. The potential of becoming a first- class thriller or at least a half decent parody on all things Mumbai, or even all things filmy. But it just fizzles out after the first few frames. The potential is lost as Khanduri’s film zips from one situation to another. There are quite a moments when you are left holding your sides with laughter. But on the whole, it does get quite tedious.
The film is not without its moments. The most endearing thing in the film is the protagonist himself. Abhay Deol is not a superb actor or a hunk. He is somewhere in the middle. But there is something very pleasant and ordinary about him. And that works wonderfully in his favour. Neha Dhupia is quite okay as the whore Mala, masquerading as the simpering Madhu. Some of the side characters are really good too. But that’s just in bits and pieces.
Oh, and that two and a half crore? And the girl and the Lancer? Well our dude gets it all in the end. But only after Khanduri’s had his day at the cinema.