By: Taran Adarsh, IndiaFM
Friday, February 24, 2006
With a title like Taxi No. 9211, you expect a wacky film. Wacky it is, but there's more to this film than an unconventional, off the wall theme. The film borrows heavily from life, life in Mumbai in particular.
Taxi No. 9211 is more of a Mumbaiya film. Set and shot in the metropolis, the film depicts a day in the life of two individuals whose paths collide on a fateful morning and life is never the same again. Though the identification for a Mumbai viewer may be tremendous, it nevertheless is a film that makes a bold statement about societal pressures and human conditions. And how external influences can compel an otherwise decent human being to do things that are despicable, shameful and disgraceful.
Taxi No. 9211 may come across as an experiment in terms of material, but it signifies the changing face of Bollywood. Again, the material may seem soaked in Mumbai, but the soul is very Indian. The father-son relationship, personal equations that fluctuate with fluctuating bank balances/fortunes and the frustrations of the common man... the premise is so real.
In a nutshell, Taxi No. 9211 may not boast of that archetypal masala Indian moviegoers have been spoon-fed for decades, but it's inventive and innovative. And, yes, it's thoroughly satisfying.
Taxi No. 9211 tells the story of two men, both prey to anger, who get involved in an accident that brings out their worst qualities. They belong to the opposite ends of the social scale.
Raghav Shastri [Nana Patekar] is a short tempered cynic. He has changed 23 jobs in the last fifteen years. He is an insurance salesman to the world, but in reality, he's a caustic, instinctively witty cabbie who needs Rs. 30,000 to pay the grocery guy, the taxi owner, his kid's school fees.
Jai Mittal [John Abraham], the equally acidic heir to a resourceful business family [Aakash Khurana], has to go to court and prove his claim for Rs. 300 crores. Today is his last chance. A trusted aide [Shivaji Satam] of his father is the sole beneficiary. Naturally, Jai challenges the will in the court of law.
There was no reason for Raghav and Jai to meet. But circumstances bring them together. Now Raghav has something that Jai desperately needs [the key to the locker, where the will is safely kept] and Raghav is in no mood to return it. What follows is a cat and mouse game of one-upmanship, as Raghav and Jai go to increasingly unfriendly lengths to gain the upper hand.
Borrowing the basic premise from director Roger Michell's Hollywood flick Changing Lanes [2002; Ben Affleck, Samuel L. Jackson], Taxi No. 9211 defies the stereotype all the way. Not only does it boast of an innovative storyline [for the Indian viewers], even the storytelling is equally original. Right from the characters depicted on the screen to the hand-held camera movements to life-like performances, you need to watch TAXI NO. 9211 with no pre-conceived notions.
One of the prime reasons why Taxi No. 9211 works is because of the unpredictable nature of the story. Right from the start, when an irritating John forces Nana to drive the vehicle faster, to the chaos that ensues, the first half of the enterprise keeps you spellbound.
A number of sequences stand out in the first hour:
- Nana's characterization.
- The conversation between Nana and John in the taxi.
- John revealing Nana's true identity [he's a cabbie, not an insurance agent] to his wife Sonali Kulkarni.
- Sequence between Sonali and Nana at the railway station, which leads to Nana bashing up a few miscreants.
- The accident at the highway, when John's car loses balance and the speeding cars almost kill him.
The post-interval portions are equally riveting. The car chase between Nana and Sameera and later, between Nana and John, till a train bangs into Nana's car, is hair-raising. Ditto for the birthday sequence, which turns out to be the most memorable sequence of the enterprise. Even the end, when John tears the will on Shivaji Satam's face, is perfect. Also, the final sequence is worthy of note: John banging into Priyanka Chopra's car. Although Priyanka's presence has nothing to do with the plot, it does bring a smile on your face nonetheless.
Taxi No. 9211 is director Milan Luthria's finest effort so far. The choice of the subject as well as the razor-sharp execution keeps you on tenterhooks all the while. Besides, Luthria presents the two diametrically opposite characters with utmost conviction. Rajat Arroraa's script is almost flawless. Of course, the basic nature of the theme would appeal more to the Mumbai viewer mainly, but the overall writing is foolproof.
Vishal-Shekhar's music gels well with the mood of the film. 'Bambai Nagaraiya' [rendered efficiently by Bappi Lahiri] is the best track, followed by 'Meter Down', which stands out also because of its snazzy execution. The song is sure to prove a hot favorite with the yuppie crowd. The background score [Vishal-Shekhar again] is trendy. Cinematography [Kartik Vijay] is of superior quality. The chases and stunts [Abbas Ali Moghul] act as an icing. Special mention must be made of the editing [Aarif Sheikh], which gives the filmed material that extra sheen.
The performances are strong, especially those by the two leads. Nana Patekar, who never fails to give his all to a role, turns in another superlative effort, reflecting the despair and rage with brilliance. The actor is truly memorable in two sequences: First, when he lands up at his kid's school to bid him goodbye and two, when he breaks down while cutting his birthday cake. His witty one-liners are sure to bring the house down.
John Abraham is eminently believable, enacting the role of a spoilt kid to perfection. With Nana as the co-star, you expect John to get completely eclipsed, but the actor stands on his feet and delivers a knockout performance.
Sameera Reddy doesn't impress. Also, she ought to watch her weight; she appears plump and needs better makeup. Sonali Kulkarni is exceptional. Her sequences with Nana are commendable. Kurush Deboo is first-rate. His sequences with both Nana and John are well enacted. Shivaji Satam gets minimal scope.
Priyanka Chopra is there for star value only. Sanjay Dutt's prologue at the very start sets the mood of the film.
On the whole, Taxi No. 9211 is akin to a whiff of fresh air, a refreshing change from the mundane masala entertainers that you keep witnessing in rapid succession. At the box-office, its business at metros will be bountiful, with the business at multiplexes contributing enormously to the booty. Not surprisingly, its prospects in Mumbai will be the best due to the strong identification. Also, with no major release in sight for the next few weeks, the taxi's ride will be smooth, attracting hordes of passengers in the process. Strongly recommended!