That Girl in Yellow Boots, Kalki

<Review by: Tushar A Amin>

Directed by Anurag Kashyap. Starring Kalki, Naseruddin Shah, Shiv Subramaniyam, Divya Jagdale, Prashant Prakash, Gulshan Devaiya.

That Girl In Yellow Boots lacks the natural provocativeness of Dev D, the ‘fuck-you’ brashness of No Smoking or the hard-hitting grittiness of Gulaal. Instead, this film comes across as wannabe, stilted and forced. This one is strictly for Anurag Kashyap fans.

A Japanese-American filmmaker friend of mine (yes, that’s you Masako San) is a huge fan of Bollywood. She does not understand Hindi but devours SRK starrers, can discuss Aamir Khan’s ‘perfectionism’ and knows how to enjoy Salman Khan’s brainless entertainers. But ask her which Indian filmmaker’s films she looks forward to the most and the instantaneous, unhesitating response is Anurag Kashyap. For millions of film lovers across the world Anurag is that edgy, gritty, independent filmmaker of choice who has twisted conventions, taken risks and pushed the envelope, in the process creating a virtual ouvre of work that any artist would be proud of.

On the flip side, this puts a huge pressure of expectations on his films – this is not the pressure of commercial success. This is the pressure of delivering an intellectually gratifying film that prods, provokes and pokes the viewer into accepting the unpalatable. And it on this count that That Girl In Yellow Boots fails to satisfy as well as expected.

The films chronicles the life of Ruth (Kalki), an English girl, as she searches for her father, an Indian who had abandoned Ruth and her mother after Ruth’s elder sister committed suicide at the age of 15. With the central character’s objective limited to her quest, Anurag attempts to make the film into a collage of character sketches. Of these, a couple like the small-time Kannadiga gangster Chutiyapa (Gulshan Devaiyah) and the massage parlour owner Maya (Puja Sarup) work brilliantly albeit as stand-alone pieces disconnected from the tone-and-rhythm of the film. They add some vibrancy to the ongoings but belong to some other Anurag Kashyap film altogether.

Kalki proves her acting mettle yet again. She brings conviction to the character of a single white girl dealing with the seamier side of the big bad city and its sleazeballs. She portrays all the aspects of Ruth – her single-minded pursuit, her detachment from the most depraved of surroundings and her anguish – to perfection.

On the technical side, the script should have been made into a short film. The quality of dialogue swings between scintillating and plebeian. The film is shot brilliantly, and coupled with brilliant art-direction, the frames look sharp and real. As always Karan Sharma’s sound design is exquisite.

However, the sum of parts fails to become greater than the whole in the case of That Girl In Yellow Boots. It leaves an impression of being over-indulgent and trying too hard to be edgy. And that, I feel, is the undoing of That Girl In Yellow Boots.

The film seems to be too enamoured by its own shock-value (like the sequences of Ruth giving hand jobs). When Paro rolled up a mattress onto a bicycle for her field rendezvous with Dev in Dev D, that single instant became a defining moment in Bollywood. With That Girl In Yellow Boots, the makers went to the floors wanting to make a cult film. Unfortunately, cult films are not made by design. And Anurag who has given us three of those should have known better.

<Tushar A Amin is the author of Bollywood Themes and former editor of FHM India. Follow Tushar on twitter: @tusharaamin>

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