Film: “Darwaza Band Rakho”; Cast: Aftab Shivdasani, Chunky Pandey, Manisha Koirala, Isha Sharvani, Snehal Dabhi, Divya Dutta, Ishrat Ali and Smita Jayakar; Director: Chekravarthy; Rating: *1/2
With a cast that reads like the who’s hoot of Bollywood, this has got to be the noisiest and most ambitious comedy of the season, if not of all seasons.
The chaos of errors starts with four desperados – Aftab Shivdasani, Zakir Husain, Snehal Dabhi and Chunky Pandey – barging into a house colonised by a Gujarati family which seems to exist on the precipice.
From there, the claustrophobic mood builds up with rapid-fire momentum, leaving no room for the characters and their relationships to grow. The narrative suffocates the characters and their motives, narrows them down to a burlesque of bankruptcy. Nonetheless, for about half of the film director Chekravarthy keeps the goings-on moderately interesting.
After a while the house chosen for the anarchic comedy of anxieties, creaks and groans under the weight of characters who know why they are there, but are clueless about why they need to be put in the bizarre situation they have inherited from a scriptwriter who probably likes crowds much more than the average member if the audience.
This has got to be the most crowded canvas since the screen adaptation of Leo Tolstoy’s War and Peace. Everyone seems to treat grim issues of crime, kidnapping, extortion and perjury as a kind of extended gag.
Indeed “Darwaza Bandh Rakho” is like a soap opera devoted to a malfunctional family where fiscal matters rule the conscience and speed is a substitute for sensitivity.
Writer-director Chekravarthy comes up with some funny moments in the first half. Sadly despite the stretched-out cast he’s unable to sustain the narration beyond the first forty-five minutes. The second leg of the black comedy limps sags and finally heaves to a halt, leaving the proceedings as bereft as a balloon without helium.
What exceeds the rather ludicrous limits set by the chaotic canvas of this heist-hilarity are some of the performances. Though over-the- top, Ishrat Ali as the Gujarati householder grappling with an unexpected houseful situation in his house, comes up with an arresting performance.
Others who get it right in a film that makes a strong pitch for the wrong, are Zakir Husain, Divya Dutta (cute and exceedingly hyper as the house-maid) and to an extent Chunky Pandey. Isha Sharvani so graceful in Subhash Ghai’s Kisna, is embarrassing here. And what’s Manisha Koirala doing in the extended ensemble cast looking as lost as Alice in no-wonderland.
The rest of the vast cast is strictly functional. An interesting blues-and-jazz lined background score by Amar Mohile and a marked tendency to trivialise serious issues that should never be allowed to be held for satire in a society that’s infested with grave maladies, go hand-in-hand in this raucous comedy.
Yes, it’s different from the other comedies. But do we really need a comedy that derives its humour from an indeterminate blank account?