Kaminey is 2009 Hindi crime thriller directed by Vishal Bharadwaj, written by Vishal Bhardwaj, Sabrina Dhawan, Abhishek Chaubey and Supratik Sen and stars Shahid Kapoor, Priyanka Chopra, and Amole Gupte. The film follows a day the life of two identical twins as they get caught up in an increasingly complicated web of drugs, mafia, police, marriage, and many other things.
What makes a good crime thriller? Why is it that many have tried but only a few have seemingly succeeded? Is it because they can’t write characters with distinct shades of gray? Or is it because the style of said film is too reminiscent of films past? Or is it because the film forgets to add in genuine levity by means of characterization instead choosing to work with boisterous loudness? Oh whatever could it be? The answers are seemingly simple when one looks at them. It’s not the violence or swearing or “hot” ladies that make a thriller compelling, it’s why those aspects come into play that does.
Kaminey is one of those rare films that succeeds in being a compelling balls-to-the-wall crime drama. It offsets its humor with drama, it plays off sincerity with the unforgiving bleakness of the everyday world, it tells its story while keeping you second guessing every instance because it knows your prior conditioning with the multitude of twin-based Bollywood films you’ve watched, it pays homage to its many influences (which range from El Mariachi to Jackie Brown) while staying its own unique story and it does all this by being riotously hilarious and at times, genuinely moving.
Shahid Kapoor is a sight to behold on-screen in a role which acts as a precursor to his much more acclaimed turns in Udta Punjab and Haider. He plays both Charlie and Guddu, the lisper and the guy who stammers respectively, with a surprising amount of heft and attention to detail. On a surface level, the most obvious end to this character trait is humor. He says it himself “main Fa (S) to Fa bolta hoon”. We giggle at his Fa because we know where out mind is racing off to. But a slight incision on that surface leaves the viewer with a deeper dive into the importance of communication when one runs into specific life-defining situations. To the world, you are the sum of all of your actions and words more than your internalized thoughts and this film prides itself in showing how one’s life can be thrown into a dryer loop owing to a flaw, albeit a slight one, in his/her communication patterns. The colorful supporting cast (who could have been a handful of throwaway heathens) pop off the screen because of their uniquely quirky traits and the downright ridiculous situations they find themselves in.
The film is chock full of subtle imagery and even more subtle commentary about the human condition. The film feels no need to draw attention to itself because it knows it’s kicking too much ass and has multiple layers in itself that one can sink into with multiple viewings (it knows you’ll come back to it).
Onto the all the fun little touches and the broad strokes I liked about the film. The songs and score. Just delightful. It’s an extremely rare phenomenon when a film impresses me enough to make me look into its soundtrack but hot damn. Fatak and Dhan Te Dan have worked their way into my workout playlist and that is a much harder goal to achieve than your day-to-day movie award (not that the filmmakers were going for it). Big shout out to master lyricist Gulzar Saab.
The cinematography and editing style are extremely inventive. There is a method to the madness with how the camera moves whilst achieving some truly complex shots. It might not register starting with the first frame but I assure you that the proverbial lightbulb will go off once you do get comfortable with the flow of the film.
All the little nods go to those moments of visual storytelling and character motivations revealed via actions rather than words in a hyper-verbose film ( a hard trick to pull off). The fun English lines peppering the songs which say “slow” when the beat picks up despite the audible instruction. Shahid Kapoor playing the guitar to “Duniya Mein Logo Ko”. I could go on for days.
*cough* that little subplot shared between the brothers is slightly hackneyed *cough*
That shot of Shahid Kapoor running with the horses (yeah, I know all the overtones, undertones and everything else that shot is going for but), Man that shot is burnt into my retinas. It is the kind of moment that makes a movie star. So very good. I live for this stuff.
Suggestion: Please watch a version of the film with subtitles if you’re not comfortable with Hindi as a language.