There are films like Black Friday which tell a story the way it is, pass no judgement whatsoever, and whisper ‘go figure!’ to the audience. It’s an effective way of saying, to quote W. Axl Rose, ‘you can look but you don’t see’. But that’s where the effect stops, and prejudices centuries old will take more than minor side-effects to erase themselves. That’s where Yeh Mera India comes in.
Armed with over a dozen actors who establish themselves without any difficulty, N. Chandra takes several potshots at Mumbai, and Indians, in general. But it’s mainly the city that gets the major chunk of the grief. And N. Chandra is taking on everything here…rich vs. poor, Hindu vs. Muslim, ghaa…Maharashtrian vs. North Indian, high caste, low caste, everything but animal rights and gay rights. Enough social causes, yeah? No Celina Jaitley and no songs, rejoice.
So, N. Chandra takes on a city at the peak of its frustration and taunts and prods it for a good two hours. Enough to drive the point home, I say, and happy endings for everyone to drive the audience home feeling content.
The dialogue is stimulating, even crackling at times, especially when Sayaji Shinde deals with North Indians, and when he meets his old friend Atul Kulkarni. ‘Be cautious while working with an educated, unemployed man’, gangleader Milind Gunaji tells Vijay Raaz, referring to Kulkarni. And Rajpal Yadav and the cell phone! There’s a whole bunch of talented actors who’ve got roles to sink their teeth into, and they get ample time onscreen. Enough footage for everyone, and they all do justice to the story.
There are some kickass scenes – a guy who has his car stolen twice looks jubilant after letting his frustration out, the hardcore Marathi cop slapping the crap out of a paanwallah bhaiya, Sayaji Shinde and Atul Kulkarni drinking chai opposite a mosque, the dialogue exchange between two Muslims outside the mosque, and the conversation between a Hindu gangster and a Muslim one.
The language is strong when it needs to be, and for once it doesn’t seem forced. That the film ventures into a bit of extra detail to add all the moral twists is when the pace drops, but luckily, that’s only towards the end. Riding very low on the cliché factor, N. Chandra doesn’t get preachy at any point, but doesn’t even stop at telling the story the way it is.
He doesn’t pass judgement, either. Instead, he staples your eyelids to your forehead and points out what he thinks is wrong with things around us. Yeh Mera India is a highly engrossing flick that forces you to think. It’s got characters that get a resounding slap from either their conscience or circumstances or both at the same time. Which is terrible, by the way. But works real well for N. Chandra and his mini-bomb of a film.
When was the last time you saw a movie that had actors you couldn’t shake out of their respective characters even at gun-point? With superb cinematography and slick editing topped with witty dialogue and cock-sure direction, N. Chandra’s Yeh Mera India could very well be the movie Ram Gopal Varma never made while he still had an idea of what he was doing right.