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regular-article-logo Saturday, 13 July 2024

Aasmaan Bhardwaj’s directorial debut Kuttey proves the adage that barking dogs seldom bite

With a cast that boasts names like Naseeruddin Shah, Tabu, Konkona Sensharma, Kumud Mishra, Radhika Madan and Arjun Kapoor, you expect exceptional, if not phenomenal

Chandreyee Chatterjee Calcutta Published 13.01.23, 05:00 PM

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A barking dog seldom bites and the louder it barks, the less scary it becomes. Vishal Bhardwaj’s son Aasmaan’s directorial debut, Kuttey, is a case in point.

It starts off with sharp yips — a cameo, a stellar actor, lolling heads and spraying blood. The yips gain strength and become staccato barks as stalwart actors start appearing one after another and the body count starts rising. The film reaches a barking volley in a shootout that doubles the body count of the film and wipes the board clean of all the players. And then it tries to land a menacing bite with the final twist but ends up with a playful and misplaced nip instead.

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With a cast that boasts of names like Naseeruddin Shah, Tabu, Konkona Sensharma, Kumud Mishra, Radhika Madan and Arjun Kapoor, and Vishal Bhardwaj not only doing the music but also being credited for additional screenplay and as a producer, you expect exceptional, if not phenomenal. Unfortunately, with Kuttey all you get is a potentially life-changing grenade that seems ready to explode but never finds the opportune moment.

In a very evident hat-tip to Quentin Tarantino, Kuttey is divided into chapters, the prologue landing the audience in a nondescript police station somewhere in Maharashtra, with a grimy, racoon-eyed Naxalite Lakshmi (Konkona) launching into a very long fable about a tiger, a goat and a dog. The point of the tale appears to be an analogy for a social order where the government is the tiger, the Naxalites are goats and the police are the dogs. An analogy that has nothing to do with the rest of the film, just like Konkona who disappears from the screen after being raped (unnecessary), beheading a politician and leaving everyone other than Paaji (Kumud Mishra) dead.

The first chapter of the film sees Mishra still as a cop who is crooked but with a moral code (!), and paired up with Arjun Kapoor’s completely crooked cop Gopal, who leaves a trail of bodies behind him without any thought of repercussions (who gets blamed for all the bodies that pile up in Mumbai and its outskirts? Are these massacres never investigated?). Rightly so, since after a (once again) pointless and bloody shootout at a pool party, all that Gopal and Paaji are hauled up for is having drugs in the car and being suspended from duty.

It is here that the only saving grace of the film appears in the form of Tabu, a top cop who has a side hustle in a bid for a full-length body stretch. Tabu revels in her role and stands out head and shoulders above the others even though her character is undermined by shoddy writing that uses cuss words as punctuations without any punch.

We are once again on the listening end of another fable, this time about a scorpion and a frog, and while Tabu and Ashish Vidyarthi cackle away as if it is the joke of the decade, it doesn’t get even a chuckle from the audience. Not that the film doesn’t show sparks of what it could have been, especially in the scene where Gopal sings a lullaby for his daughter over phone while wheeling and dealing, or when a man tries to create a WhatsApp group to coordinate the heist. But these moments are few and far between.

For all its Kaminey influence from its noir setting, rain-drenched backdrops and the title tune playing over every action sequence, it lacks the originality, the edginess and the punch of Vishal Bhardwaj’s 2009 film.

The disparate plotlines, and the fables, come together in some semblance of coherence (it is a stretch) after the intermission. Each character — which now also includes Naseeruddin Shah’s (he plays a wheelchair-bound don and has nothing to do except threaten people) daughter (Radhika Madan) and his henchman, who are in a forbidden relationship — is after a van full of money, all for their own gain. Oh, the Naxalites, led by Konkona also appear, traipsing through Khandala only to end up dead.

And for its final punch, the ‘epilogue’, the film uses real news footage from 2016 in a non-informed, ridiculously frivolous ending that gives credibility to an action that had very serious consequences. After 153 minutes of unimaginative storytelling and the waste of a stellar cast who are not given much to do, you are left asking an oft-repeated question in the film — ‘logic kya hai?’

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