A Journey Filled with Hope
By MovieTalkies.com, 20 August 2008
Something changed forever in the city of Mumbai on July 11, 2006. In a space of 11 minutes, seven bomb blasts took place on the city's suburban railway lines, claiming 209 lives and leaving more than 700 injured. These are the bare cold figures. But there were countless others whose lives were impacted by the blasts. Nishikant Kamat's film, Mumbai Meri Jaan, deals with not just the actual event but what went before and after the blast. It deals with people, normal, ordinary people whose lives were affected and changed forever by this one incident. Kamat makes a sensitive, touching film and manages to infuse the quality of hope in his take on the blasts and its aftermath. The rise of the human spirit in the film is what makes it so real and so inspiring.
There are six stories running simultaneously in the movie at times they touch and converge but for the better part their link to each other is the city and the blast. The director has managed the onerous task of doing full justice to each story and protagonist superbly. Each of the tales within the framework of the larger tale retains it natural hue and shades and yet manages the impossible task of merging into the whole, which is Mumbai Meri Jaan. One has to congratulate the director not only for his choice of subject, but for the manner in which he has dealt with the gory incident.
Kamat's film works not just because of his treatment of the subject but that he has a very dedicated and honest band of actors who seem to get into the skin of their characters and bring them alive. The heart of Mumbai Meri Jaan comes alive because of the natural and moving performances of actors like Paresh Rawal, Vijay Maurya, Madhavan, Soha Ali Khan, Kay Kay Menon and Irrfan Khan. Each of the actors infuses life into their characters and make them believable. All the actors do a brilliant job, but if one has to choose a favourite, it would have to be Paresh Rawal and Irrfan Khan.
The film opens deceptively, in a quiet manner as the filmmaker introduces his cast of players. Irrfan plays a South Indian immigrant, who makes his living by peddling tea and coffee in the night. Madhavan plays a white collar executive who commutes by train everyday, refusing to uselessly spend money on a car. He has a pregnant wife back home, who would rather herself and Madhavan go off to the States. But Madhavan is one of those patriotic Indians who would rather stay back and make a difference. Soha Ali Khan plays the ubiquitous television reporter, who by a quirk of fate finds herself at the other end of the camera when her fiancé is among those killed during the blasts. Then there is Kay Kay's character, of an unemployed, Hindu youth, who has a general problem with Muslims. Finally, there are the Mumbai cops, played to touching perfection by Paresh Rawal and Vijay Maurya.
Then the blast takes place and Soha's fiancé, played by Samir Dharmadhikari dies in the blasts while Madhavan's character has a miraculous escape. With the city on high alert, cops are pressed into duty and Vijay Maurya's leave gets cancelled. His frustration has already been mounting at the impotency of the cops. But his senior, played by Paresh Rawal, who is on the verge of retirement, tells him not to get so involved and takes things to heart. He advises him to let the picture play out but never to become a part of it. But the blasts change something inside and even Rawal's character is forced to acknowledge that there is nothing that he ever did of value as a cop. But he does manage to make a difference during his encounter with Kay Kay's character. He teaches him something about rising above differences and breaking the chain of hatred and suspicion. Kay Kay's character changes for the better and is able to look beyond suspicion and hatred, and of thinking of Muslims as the 'other'. From breaking news, Soha finds herself becoming the fodder for news by her channel. While Madhavan, finally sees a ray of hope for Indian and Indians when they all stand still in a moment's silence to mourn the dead. Irrfan's character, who makes the most of the blasts, by making false alarm calls to the cops about a bomb being placed in one or the other mall, finally realises the impact his action has on people.
Mumbai Meri Jaan has myriad characters, all of who trying to get on with the business of living, in a world which has suddenly turned scary. The changes that they go through and the manner in which they all grow and come to behave as human beings is what this film truly celebrates. It celebrates the innate humanity which lurks under every man or woman, a humanity which manifests itself when the chips are down. Even though the director has depicted the blasts, and the blood and gore accompanying it, the enduring image of the film is the expression on Madhavan's face as he realises that everyone on the train is standing in silence to mourn the dead. Or, for that matter, when Kay Kay stands with his Muslim and Hindu friends in silence and realises that the grief is the same for all.
It is these images which stay with one long after the film is over. Mumbai Meri Jaan touches an emotional chord and it is hard to stay unaffected by the film and the agony and angst of its protagonists. The story, has of course, been very well written, with every character being delineated meticulously. The blast and the accompanying horror and shock has been well captured on camera. The film stays absorbing right upto the end and makes for a very thought provoking journey into the heart of darkness and back.