Ekkees Toppon Ki Salaami
Director: Ravindra Gautam
Cast: Divyendu Sharma, Aditi Sharma, Anupam Kher, Manu Rishi, Neha Dhupia
It's not every week that we are treated with an original story. More often than not, patches of a tried-and-tested plot are borrowed for a film’s sake. Which pretty much explains why the lack of an original yarn is fueling the rise of remakes and sequels in Bollywood. Which also explains why Ekkees Toppon Ki Salaami (ETKS) is different from the crowd. The satire unassumingly takes you on a tragicomedy journey that is incredibly believable.
Set in Mumbai, two happy-go-lucky brothers are introduced. And then their father enters the scene. The contrast between the father and his sons is obvious. The former is a man of absolute integrity while the latter are good-hearted but lost. To make matters worse, all of them lead a life of marginal penury. As one situation leads to another, there comes a moment when the old man has to decide whether he’d stick to his principles or give in to his sons’ unethical demands. That’s also the precise instance when the film throttles up and vrooms ahead.
Subsequently, the aforementioned young men take it upon themselves to honour their father and how! Interestingly, the unfolding of events thereafter is both tricky as well as smooth, making it an enjoyable ride. If it were about a man of lesser ideals or somebody who’d compromise under testing circumstances, the film might have fallen flat. He served the city loyally as a municipal fumigator and that’s what endears one to the storyline.
However, the first half of this film tries to be something which it clearly isn’t — with a mash-up song video featuring Neha Dhupia — and sloppy screenplay. It’s only minutes before intermission that the story picks pace and doesn’t wobble even for a second from then on.
Said to be a tribute to cartoonist RK Laxman’s legendary The Common Man, director Ravindra Gautam strikes the comical as well as tragic chords. Laced with a story like this, he could have very well excused his directorial debut from the drab the first half constitutes of. But then, for a visibly low-budget venture, EKTS accomplishes quite a lot and that too with non-A-listers.
Though Anupam Kher plays a dead man for half of his screentime, what he delivers as a breathing soul compels admiration. It wouldn’t be remiss to point out that the veteran actor has one of his most memorable roles in this heartwarming film. Playing one of the two sons, Divyendu Sharma is convincing. His talent merits more exposure given he’s seldom seen. And the same could be said of Manu Rishi, who essays his brother. Aditi Sharma is remarkable as she holds her own throughout. To her credit, Dhupia not only takes up a role not many of her peers would be comfortable with but also makes her character appreciable.
What works for Ekkees Toppon Ki Salaami is that it has something new to say about this city’s old ways of being. And that’s certainly worth the two-hour-plus runtime.