Okay, I did not like Yeh Saali Zindagi. In fact, I thought it was a waste of my time. This sounds awfully non-intellectual. You are supposed to like pathbreaking cinema, appreciate nuances. Guess what? I don’t think those guys who were whistling at the cuss words or going “Oye, oye’ at the kissing scenes knew any “maa ki aankh” avant gardism. They probably did not even identify enough with the goonda-gardism.
I took a quick look at some of the reviews and phrases like “dark comedy”, “twisted plot”, “unconventional narrative”, “love with the backdrop of a thriller” hit me. Then there are technical hosannas, especially about pace.
Smart accountant Arun works for slimy boss, falls in love with nightclub singer Priti who can’t sing, who is in love with a businessman’s son, who is engaged to a minister’s daughter, who is angry because he loves the singer, who needs help of the other guy who loves her. Pace? Yeah, yeah. “Bhenchod.”
Then there is Kuldeep who is in jail, wants to reform, has an aggressive wife who he tames with kisses and a son, decides on one last big ticket kidnapping with the help of corrupt cop, gets the wrong girl, who goes to real girl and real father of girl, finally goes to real lover of her singing…nah…of her body...nah…of her soul…well…Pace? Yeah, yeah. “Chutiya.”
Cut to auditorium. People are laughing. Not because the comedy is dark but because a man is killed and his corpse farts. They are whistling not because there is anything exciting but the coarse language seems like their “saala”. It is programmed to sound rough and tough and hard. Oh yeah, they get the weapons and the phallic stuff to convey that.
The film is supposed to give you the underbelly of Delhi. Honestly, this could be in Jharkhand, Patna or Virar or even Sicily. No wonder they have to dateline every event. “Somewhere in Sohna, “Outskirts of Delhi”. Okay, we are such dolts, we Angrezi types that we won’t know the underbelly.
Arun's love for the nightclub singer is shown as some sort of obsession. It isn’t. He moons like an adolescent who has just discovered new use for a water tap and just as suddenly has her accounts in order (where in the beginning he had managed to get the thumb impression of another corpse…dark, na?) She goes “Oh, Arun,” like Saira Banu used to in those old films, except she is “real”. Uff, how everyone is telling us again and again that this is real, and all about subtext and layers and ensemble cast, which is a nice way to create 'confujan' and make it sound like it has so many “bhadva” layers.
It is so ‘witty’ that a bullet that backfires and boomerangs on the unrequited lover becomes the cause of denouement. Geez, the object of his love finally says, “I love you.” Now, is one supposed to go treacly and get goosebumps? No, no. This is serious cinema with layers. So, should one laugh but only slightly because it is a dark comedy? No, no. They are finally snuggled in bed.
Sudhir Mishra has made two marvellous films: Ek Raat Ki Subah Nahin and Hazaaron Khwaaishein Aisi that meshed love and the thriller genres. Yeh Saali Zindagi is neither here nor there. I mean, there are people who think describing the person one is crazy about as rajma chaawal is different and potent. Really? All Punjabis probably do, that is if they are not calling them tandoori chikkan or sarson da saag. But rajma is kidney beans and he goes on about kidney…kaleja…(which is liver)…dil…
Mishra can take a bow. He has finally made a film for the frontbenchers.
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Note: I have used cuss words in the post that were there in the film and passed by the censors. I suppose I got some of the layers right. To the readers, please excuse, but I also had to be 'realistic'.