Cast: Sumit Nijhawan, Mona Wasu, Md Zeeshan Ayub, Pankaj Tripathi, Manav Kaushik, Manish Chaudhary
Director: Jaideep Chopra
When you go to a movie without any expectations and the first sequence turns out to be good then you just wish the film to avoid the curse of the second half. 'Maazii', means past in Urdu, starts at a very peculiar note which is engrossing and perturbing at the same time. Here onwards, a mental battle begins between the screenwriters (Shirish Sharma, Sumit Nijhawan) and the audience about the possibilities of the next scene. Ultimately, the race culminates at a point where the spectator realises the existence of a hidden world which couldn't be seen with 'urban' eyes.
Tarun Singh (Sumit Nijhawan) is a man of few words and subtle facial expressions. He lives with his English speaking wife Shrishty (Mona Wasu) and daughter Minal (Saanvi) in a hilly town. Tarun sells flowers for his livelihood and shies away from confronting his sharp tongued neighbour despite a muscular built. In a surprising turn of events, Tarun becomes a small town hero but he is clearly not ready to accept the unwanted attention. On top of everything, there is something about Tarun's past that keeps him on tenterhooks, always.
The credit sequence was a revelation for me because I hadn't anticipated such an imaginative use of heavy strings. Though it felt that the use of metal red could have made the names look better but the background score was the real deal. For a second, it appeared like the opening of a perfect Western but soon it proceeded to Indian-ise the setting.
Jaideep Chopra's vision unfolds in a land where there is almost no respect for the law and even less for the law enforcing agencies. Here, a clan of dacoits operate as if there family business is extortion and murder. Any person with a relatively clear conscience would have to face the existential crisis in such a place and that's exactly what the policeman feels when Satendra Bhati (Pankaj Tripathi) describes him the first hand account of a murder. This scene is so raw and free of inhibitions that the viewers take a nano-second to realise the premise's unending distance from the civilisation. Satendra Rathi (Manav Kaushik) is subtle, spontaneous and humorous without getting in your face.
The writing doesn't allow Sumit Nijhawan to flaunt his combat skills in a Bollywoodised way but this amazingly works in his favour. His tense face and human like body language separate him from the superheroes we see in usual Hindi films. Nijhawan tries his best to add more values to his character by deliberating letting the fellow actors take the centerstage, however his fantastic voice remains under utilised.
Mona Wasu is surprisingly natural and a small towner in her approach but if there is one person who should be picked apart from Sumit Nijhawan in the film, it's Md Zeeshan Ayyub (Rehtal). In a complete contrast to his 'Raanjhanaa' act, Zeeshan emerges as a callous baddie.
It's not an attempt to compare Jaideep Chopra with Coen Brothers but 'Maazii' shows a glimpse of the latent potential of the gangster genre.
Occasional songs do hamper the flow of 'Maazii' but the powerful locales and the vivacious nature of crime keeps the momentum maintained.
The accent and the looped method of dialogue delivery is a treat to watch, especially if you're familiar with the Western UP's dark underbelly.
The director's fascination for realistic locations has paid well because the mise-en-scene entices the spectators. It must have been a difficult task for the person behind the megaphone to create a surreal surrounding with almost no morally upright character but it happens that too in such a way where idealism takes a backseat and survival of the semantics evolves as the ultimate desire.
It's not like 'Maazii' is free of errors but stylisation imbibes a great strength to the story which is earthy yet charming.
Thanks to his already established image of a tough nut, Gulaab (Manish Chaudhary) gets some of the finest one-liners in the film. These lines are carefully drafted and well balanced despite being high on the 'punch' value.
To me, 'Maazii' also stands out because finally there is a film which gets the placement of the words right and refrains from showcasing the gangsters of Western UP as mindless wannabes.
Overall, 'Maazii' is not meant to be missed, especially when there is no much awaited release running alongside it.
Rating: 4 out of 5