Stylish Homage to Thriller Genre
By MovieTalkies.com, 28 September 2007
Shriram Raghavan's Johnny Gaddar is a very clever and classy movie which owes its allegiance to the thriller genre made famous by James Hadley Chase and director Vijay Anand. The film, a thriller in itself, has been crafted in such a manner that there are constant references to James Hadley Chase— the author's novel keeps making an appearance in the frame, and Parwana, a thriller starring Amitabh Bachchan and Navin Nischol. Of course, the name Johnny as well seems to be inspired by Dev Anand's Johnny Mera Naam.
The world of Johnny Gaddar, like all good thriller is an amoral world, nothing is clearly defined, not the good guys or the bad ones. Chance plays a big role here. The protagonist of the film, Vikram, a stockbroker, a role essayed by debutant Neil Nitin Mukesh, is a case in point. A young man who wants to get rich fast, he joins a gang headed by Seshadri, with Prakash (Vinay Pathak), who runs a gambling den and Shardul (Zakir Hussain) who runs a night club and a henchman called Shiva (Daya Shetty) as it other partners. What they actually deal in however, remains a mystery. But as the movie opens, there is a big deal going which would allow the members to double their 2.5 crore in a week.
This is where the double cross happens with Vikram plotting to keep the entire dough to himself. Inspired by the little know Bacchan thriller Parwana, he manages to stage an elaborate game whereby he creates a strong alibi for himself and manages to kill Shiva and walk off with the loot. This is a scene which takes place in the corridor of a first-class compartment. But what follows next is a murder feast as Seshadri is bumped off next followed Prakash and Shardul. The traitor has to keep murdering each of his partners in a bid to cover up his first murder. His pressing compulsion to earn lots of money fast is also precipitated by the fact that he is in love with his partner's wife, played by Rimi Sen.
Raghavan does a good job of creating the first heist and the getaway of the Gaddar. Even the subsequent sequences in the film are all very well worked in. But at some point, the film seems to start dragging, as the thrill element loses its zing somewhat and matters become more predictable. The director manages to keep the thrill element going till the end, which come across as slightly weak. The end is inevitable of course, as this is the world where you can only accept the unpredictable. Vikram's run of luck finally catches up with him in the end, but not without enough twists and turns on the way. He comes to brink many a time before the end. The director chooses to keep his audience in confidence as the action unfolds. The device works and the drama is still absorbing enough. But somewhere the edge is missing. It could be due to the seemingly casual manner in which the protagonist adds to the dead bodies in the movie. There is little that we know about the real Vikram and the film does not seek to enlighten us. All that we know is that he is in love with Rimi and wants to make a fast buck.
Debutant Neil Mukesh comes across as an extremely confident actor. He has the looks and the talent to make it big. He is perfect in the role of the smooth operator who turns out to be the traitor. The actor gives a very balanced performance. The only problem here is that the character seems to lack an emotional core, which element if added, would have allowed the audience to either love or hate him. This is somewhere that the writers have slipped up. Rimi, cast opposite him, hardly has much to do in the film.
Raghavan's Seshadri is an English-speaking Dharmendra who is hilarious when he shoots off profanities in the Queen's language. It would have been better to see him spouting the same in Hindi. His is a short role. Vinay Pathak as Prakash the gambler, does another very impeccable job of playing a character married to gambling as well as Ashvini Kalsekar in the film. But the actor to watch out for is Zakir Hussain as Shardul. This stage actor, who began his career with Nadira Babbar's Ekjute theatre company, is quite a revelation. The actor has been around for a while and had played a menacing role in Sarkar as well. He is essays his role of Shardul with real ease. He manages to get into the skin of the character and delivers a very natural performance.
Full marks to Raghavan for creating a thriller, which for the most part, lives up to its great predecessors in the same genre. Cinamtographer, Murleedharan CK, definitely has a great role to play in giving the film a stylish look. But if Raghavan could have worked on the length, and more crucially, on giving it a more solid emotional core, Johnny Gaddar could have been a masterpiece.
At no point of time in the film, is the audience drawn into the film, or the action. It watches as a passive third party with nothing at stake here. That disconnect is what lets the film down.