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BADMAASH COMPANY Director: Parmeet Sethi; Players: Shahid Kapoor, Anushka Sharma, Vir Das, Meiyang Chang, Anupam Kher, Pawan Malhotra, Kiran Juneja. Music:Pritam. Theatrical release: Yash Raj Films
With his first outing at the helm, Sethi catapults himself to the rank of directors whose films will be watched out for. The bit actor who never got his dues in Bollywood does himself proud with his debut film.
The movie is set in the early 90s, pre-cellular phone, pre-international brands, pre-liberation India. We are reminded in the credit sequence itself that a call across the country cost 90 rupees then, not 90 paise, and FM meant Finance Minister and not your favorite radio channel.
Company is about Karan (Kapoor) and his buddies, Chandu (Das) and Zing (Chang), just out of college, who get a taste of the good life when they become carriers for smuggled goods. Dreaming of the big score, they do not hesitate to take shortcuts to get rich quick. Bulbul (Sharma) serves as the voice of reason who wants the good life but also understands the pitfalls of excess.
Karan, the ambitious son of an honest, rigidly correct father takes the first initiative. A few quick trips to Singapore to move contraband for a crooked dealer earn the gang a sum in days that their fathers haven’t earned in years. Having tasted blood, the gang of friends grows bolder and hatches one quick con after another to fool the system. Predictably, the bubble bursts and it is payback time. What happens then forms the gripping second half of the story.
Despite following a fairly predictable story line, Sethi keeps the proceedings interesting. We have seen many a film go from high adrenaline thrills in the beginning to a tame and moralistic second half, but Badmaash Companymanages to escape this fate.
Like the pretentious Teen Patti, this film, too, is a take on the Kevin Spacey film,21. However, the director adapts the screenplay to match the Indian mood and ambitions of the heady 90s.
The actors do justice to each of the well-etched roles. Kapoor does himself proud as the brains of the gang. He is at ease with his arrogant self as well as his humbler post-intemission avatar. Sharma sheds her docile Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi persona along with quite a few clothes and emerges a radiant complement to Kapoor’s machismo. Das and Chang are completely natural as the decadent buddies.
The ensemble cast—Kher and Malhotra, specifically—takes the film to a new level of credibility.
The art direction brings to life the contrast between the average middle-class household with its cane sofa set, cluttered side-tables, and the alluring life-styles of the rich and the (in)famous.
Sethi wears many hats and, besides being the director, also writes the screenplay and dialogues. Some of the cons, especially the “Bleeding Madras,” are not particularly credible, but the joie-de-vivre spirit of the movie makes it a great summer offering. At any rate, the film shatters the Yash Raj stereotype of chiffon, romance, and Switzerland and is well worth a watch.
Madhumita Gupta is a freelance writer and teacher.