Produced by Anubhav Sinha, Kabootar was recently screened at Osian's Cine Fan, New Delhi, and won tremendous applause for itself. This writer was amongst the select few invitees who were invited for the film's screening. Directed by debutant Maqbool Khan, the film brings with it some eclectic mix of entertainment and social messaging which reflects the not-so-apparent state of youngsters in small towns.
"In big cities, 'chauraha' (crossroad) is a place from where four roads lead to different destinations. On the other hand, in small towns, 'chauraha' is a place where people from four different destinations meet" - This is what practically summarizes the feel and texture of Kabootar which tells the tale of four youngsters in their late teens who come together on one such crossroad, only to find a premature end to their journey. No wonder, the film's punch line reads - "If they hadn't been friends...They might have still been alive."
Debutant director Maqbool Khan sets his cards right at the very onset of the film. He doesn't take time in establishing his four characters - Jeetu (Ankur Khanna), Irshaad (Harsh Lunia), Prabal (Vishal Thakkar) and Sharafat (Nikhil Yadav) - all in their teens, who meet in a small town from Rajasthan called Dhaulpur.
Set in noir genre, with Jeetu taking the audience through the journey of these boys who eventually become friends after chance encounters and some stray fights, Kabootar is a motif which represents the exploitation of wayward youth in the hands of a local Mafioso Bhadauria (Govind Namdeo). The man creates his own army of soldiers who are willing to kill people for a few thousand rupees and a bottle of beer sans any remorse. He drives them emotionally, calls them his own and later disposes them off when they become too big for the shoes which were in the first place provided by him.
Led by Prabal and followed by Irshaad, Jeetu too becomes a part of the team which works for Bhadauria even though Sharafat acts as the voice of conscience. They start with trivial battles, threaten a few when the going gets tough, become quite prevalent in Dhaulpur even as the existing erstwhile 'kabootar' gang (Brijesh, Keshav) start feeling threatened and even commit murders without any sense or purpose.
Most of them being school drop outs, for them it is a game of proving their worth and loyalty to the man who spoils them with a reason. High on booze, women, power and sheer immaturity, Jeetu, Irshaad, Prabal and Sharafat do enjoy the moments they spend on the 'chauraha', only to see it all being snatched away in a jiffy once their master feels that as a 'kabootar', they had flown enough!
Young Maqbool Khan surely knows the art of story telling. And he demonstrates that as a filmmaker he has set out on telling a story which doesn't quite follow the stereotype. And at places where he does feel that avoiding a stereotype is impossible, he unabashedly admits to it. Picture the scene where the four kids are sitting at a rooftop and looking at the town of Dhaulpur below them. When one of them comments that he feels like a king of the town, the other is soon to quip - 'Haan mere Bhikhu Mhatre'!
It is such tongue in cheek humor which dilutes this 'violence-every-10-minutes' film which Kabootar is in its 120 minutes duration! Tussles, brawls, bloodshed is prevalent throughout the course of the movie and along with action director Javed, Maqbool Khan stuns in making it all realistic and real-life. When blood drips off a boy's face, it is not akin to what one associates with Shah Rukh Khan from a Baazigar or aKaran Arjun. Instead it is what you may have seen in reality on a roadside fight. Also, proceedings turn really brutal when certain sequences like these lead to a churn-in-a-stomach. Watch out for the blood-filled climax which is certainly not for the weak hearted!
In a (successful) attempt to keep the proceedings real, yet entertaining, Maqbool also takes a hold-no-bar approach when it comes to his actors mouthing expletives. Practically every conversation has a character or two speaking the language which though would be common on the streets but would definitely raise eyebrows when heard in a film. If you thought you had heard and seen enough of it in films like Bandit Queen or Satya or Omkara then watch out forv Kabootar! One can bet that if cleared through censors in entirety, the dialogues would create quite a stir after the film's screening.
Talking about the film's dialogues (by Anil Chaudhary), they carry a rustic and local flavor to them which aids the narration to stay natural and life like. Also, quite a few dialogues help in bringing a chuckle or two on a regular interval. Watch out for the one where a kid explains to other the difference between two kinds of individuals - one which gives it back when provoked and the other which gives it to someone without even being provoked. Priceless!
Though the film remains tout for most of the time with its first 1 hour being exceedingly gripping and last 15 minutes making one look at the going-ons with eyes and mouth wide open (the finale is gritty and quite violent), there are moments just after the interval point when the film seems to stagnate a little. With the plot being firmly established and the story taking a turn around the interval point, one looks forward to the story moving ahead but that doesn't quite happen. Also, the song picturisation on a girl with the four boys celebrating is completely out of place. However, things take turn for better when Brijesh comes out of coma and the boys are sent to Mumbai for a murder, hence leading to a thrilling conclusion to Kabootar.
While Govind Namdeo is in great form once again after Johnny Gaddaar and acts as a fulcrum to the proceedings, it is scenes where the four boys are together that keep the audience hooked on. Performance-wise each of them delivers as required by the characters they play. While Ankur Khanna (Jeetu) underplays his part, Harsh (Irshaad) is excellent as a foul mouthed youngster. Vishal Thakkar (Prabal), who had made a great impression in Chandni Bar (as Tabu's grown up son), plays his broody part quite well while Nikhil Yadav (Sharafat) justifies his presence as a boy who always wanted his friends to come out of the mess they had entrapped themselves into. However, just like Manoj Bajpai walked away with all the accolades in Satya, Harsh would do the same as 'Irshaad'. He is simply lovable as a brat who doesn't quite care for the world around him!
If made 5 years back, one would have questioned the commercial prospects of a film like Kabootar. After all the film doesn't really have a romantic angle per se (though there are two girls involved, they don't really make the film a romance saga by any means), doesn't boast of conventional songs (Vishal-Shekhar have been roped in for a background track and a situational song), mostly has a small town setting (with only about 10 minutes set in Mumbai), bears a rustic look (courtesy DOP Jailesh Oberoi who does a very good job in 'not making' the setting look filmy) and concludes with a tragic ending! However, given the current scenario, when clever marketing has made films like Aamir, Mithya, Khuda Kay Liye and Shaurya commercially successful in spite of a serious theme and lack of star cast which pulls audience in hordes, Kabootar does promise a lot.