Rajeev Masand – movies that matter : from bollywood, hollywood and everywhere else

December 5, 2008

Gallery of grates

Filed under: Our FIlms — Rajeev @ 11:16 pm

December 05, 2008

Cast: Naseeruddin Shah, Paresh Rawal, Neha Dhupia, Boman Irani, Tara Sharma, Om Puri, Naseeruddin Shah

Director: Shivam Nair

Crushingly slow and painfully predictable, Maharathi is your typical stage-to-screen adaptation gone very wrong. The movie – centred around a handful of characters, and filmed largely in a single location – is less than two hours in running time, but feels like a never-ending teleplay.

Paresh Rawal stars as a small-time con who earns the favor of an ageing ex-film producer (played by Naseeruddin Shah) when he saves the alcoholic fellow from imminent death in a road accident. Partly out of gratitude and partly to piss off his wife (played by Neha Dhupia), the old man rewards the con with a job as his driver and a place to stay in his home. Clashing initially, then collaborating on a master-plan to get their hands on the old drunkard’s money, his wife and his driver soon form a formidable team, outsmarting both the old man’s faithful lawyer buddy (played by Boman Irani) and the new caretaker (played by Tara Sharma). But, as you should have guessed by now, in the end things take a very different course – some plans go awfully wrong, important characters end up dead, and the seemingly simple ones turn out to be anything but.

Adapted from a Gujarati play of the same name, the film is directed by Shivam Nair who employs a loose hand and never once gives the film that mood of nail-biting tension that is so desperately required here to keep the viewer engaged. It’s in the last fifteen odd minutes of the film that you witness any real energy at all, as two important characters bicker and spar and – as a result – infuse some life into this dead drama. The so-called twist in the end is so alarmingly obvious, you can see it coming from a mile away.

Sadly, despite assembling an ensemble of powerhouse actors, the film scores with only one memorable performance – at the heart of Maharathi is a delicious turn by Paresh Rawal who turns even ordinary scenes with flat dialogue into some pretty potent stuff.

That’s two out of five for director Shivam Nair’s Maharathi; it’s a long and tedious affair, with a few moments that shine. Watch it if you have little else to do.

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)

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