<Review by: Sailesh Ghelani>
Directed by Nitin Kakkar. Starring Sharib Hashmi, Kumud Mishra, Inaamulhaq, Gopal Dutt, Waseem Khan, Saroj Sharma, Tushar Jha, Sanjay Mehta, Ravi Bhushan
Very rarely does a ‘Bollywood’ film charm and enthral you with its characters and subtle but riveting storyline. Thankfully, Filmistaan isn’t a Bollywood film even though it is, in part, about India’s film industry.
Good word of mouth and critical praise have ensured that this film on a shoestring budget with no stars or recognisable actors has done well even in the second week. And after watching it, you can understand why. Unlike a lot of the other ‘offbeat’ films we’ve seen, Filmistaan is actually a well-made movie with genuine performances and the perfect mix of humour and intensity.
Very-Average-Joe Sunny Arora (Sharib Hashmi) is in Mumbai to become an actor. From the opening scenes you can see he’s adept at mimicking Hindi films, which is both amusing and a bit pitiful. His only option is to become an ‘assistant director’, which is a path that has lead several ‘stars’ in front of the camera. While shooting a documentary with a group of American filmmakers in Rajasthan, Sunny is abducted by Islamic militants and taken to the Pakistan side of the border. There, in a village that has to acquiesce to the will of these radicals, Sunny is holed up in a village dwelling, which then becomes his set.
Nitin Kakkar, who has also written the screenplay with lead Sharib Hashmi, effortlessly unfolds a piece of cinematic magic where you see how differences are superficial and usually caused by extreme beliefs and sometimes religion. The people of Pakistan love Bollywood films. And Sunny’s whimsical flair with dialogue and mimicry make him an instant hit in the village, much to the chagrin of his captors. But they too soften to him if only for brief periods. Their overwhelming sense of (misguided) loyalty to their motherland makes them just as fierce foes as they are accommodating hosts.
Aftab (Inaamulhaq) son of the villager whose house Sunny is under arrest in befriends the ‘actor’ since his love of Bollywood and filmmaking isn’t satiated by his successful pirated DVD business. Their friendship aims to show that people are simply people, frustrated and delighted by the same things.
Sharib Hashmi spellbinds us with his craft. Simple and sincere is what comes across and in such an entertaining way that both the village children and the audience want to see more. His scene where he’s helping his assailants film a ransom video with him in it is hilarious. All the actors are shades of grey and they shine.
Yes the old Bollywood movies were classics. Not so any more. But if Filmistaan is the new way, then let it be so.