Film: “Anthony Kaun Hai?”; Cast: Sanjay Dutt, Arshad Warsi, Minissha Lamba, Raghuvir Yadav, Gulshan Grover; Director: Raj Kaushal; Rating: **
First questions first – is this an original film? If it is, then this is one of the finest, sassiest and most sparkling scripts one has encountered in recent months.
A fine central performance by the ever-competent actor Arshad Warsi playing a victim of destiny’s high-handedness, gives that extra edge and simmering sparkle to what could have been a precariously stylish pretext to film Thailand like never before.
Hemant Chaturvedi’s cinematography is top-notch. Use of sepia and brown shades in the first half and more flamboyant colours in the second half gives director Raj Kaushal’s film that certain edge of delicious irony and under-stated ecstasy, generally denied to Hindi commercial cinema.
Indeed one of the films USPs is the subversion of cinematic conventions. The device of the victim Champak Chaudhauri, aka Champ (Arshad) narrating his story to a child-like gangster (Sanjay Dutt, and how many times has he played the gangster to perfection!) gives the narrative a chance to repeatedly jump the grin and the gun to give us a dollop of devilish delight that seems original and intelligent.
A sort of Sanjay Gupta flick where a gentle quality replaces the savagery that usually attends celluloid treatises on gangsterism.
Sanjay as Arshad’s sounding board reminds us how much Hindi cinema can benefit from its traditions, if it only stops being slavish to convention.
Sanjay often “corrects” Arshad’s narrative about his life. Watch that wickedly funny moment where Sanjay slaps his story-telling hostage and tells him to woo his girl in the way they do in Yash Chopra’s films.
Yup, the hit-man is a movie buff. Predictably, he falls for his intended victim’s love story. Why not? The romantic scenes between Arshad and Minissha Lamba, who has vastly improved from her earlier outings, are done up in a believable warm and endearing style.
Watch Arshad in the airport-located climax (gosh, how many filmy lovers have been united at this location in the last ten years!) where Minissha asks him to prove his love by breaking into song in full public view.
Arshad is priceless. Whether trying to dig diamonds out of a prison backyard or wooing Minissha with song and poetry – this guy has got just what ticks. Arshad has shaped into one of our more watchable performers, almost a new-age Kamal Haasan.
But it is the movie references that sustain our interest. From the film’s title (a homage to Amitabh Bachchan’s Anthony Gonzalves in Manmohan Desai’s “Amar Akbar Anthony”), Kaushal never fails to remind you that the more things change the more they remain the same – the trick is to do a shimmy with that sameness.
“Anthony Kaun Hai” does just that. And comes up with an endearing and engaging yarn which works when it’s not being too clever for its own good.
More than the chemistry between Warsi and Lamba and earlier in the narrative, Warsi and Anusha Dandekar, who exposes so much skin you wonder if under-dressing is mandatory in parts of ‘Thigh-land’, it’s the Arshad-Sanjay combo that crackles and hisses with a livewire intensity.
If Arshad is obedient and reverent, Sanjay is cool and casual. Together they embody this watchable film’s spirit. It is both respectful and tongue-in-cheek about what makes Hindi cinema tick.
But the question persists – is it an original?