Milan Talkies Film Review: Heartland hitting saturation point
The film itself though does little to the genre, besides deliberately revisit some old-world Bollywood cliches. Maybe there's some subversion (that I'm unable to see).
U/A: Drama romance
Dir: Tigmanshu Dhulia
Cast: Ali Fazal, Shraddha Srinath
This film is so inherently inconsistent, uneven in its storytelling that you feel like rooting for it still, simply because of the scattered set-pieces full of humour and insights/mannerisms of a small town, north India that you encounter once in a while.
It's almost like spotting diamond among the roughs - whether that be the local uncle breaking into nostalgic songs after a few pegs of whisky, or the street goon, wannabe Vidhayak (legislator) - both being the same - desperate to test his skills as a Hindi film star.
We're referring to Uttar Pradesh in particular, and Allahabad (now Prayagraaj) to be more specific - effectively a land of bakchods (blabber-mouths), with tonnes of tashan (exhibition of bravado) dictating mofussil male lives.
I know this isn't as true anymore, but another aspect that has geographically remained common to Indian towns is the cinema hall (or talkies) as the all-important landmark (there are usually two or three max in a district), where both the rich and the poor, predominantly young, but also the old, merge for their movie entertainment, and other accoutrements that naturally surround it.
Check out the trailer here:
Milan Talkies, that the film is named after, is one such adda/theatre in Allahabad where a young dude spends most of his time in the projection room, aspiring to become a Mumbai filmmaker when he isn't shooting low-budget films with neighbourhood talents himself. One assumed this would be some sort of a version of Giuseppe Tornatore's Italian classic Cinema Paradiso (1988) - ultimate tribute to the movies.
Hell, no. This is a full-on, wannabe-classic romantic story about that boy, and the girl with an authoritarian dad, and the fact that they can't get together - even as the film doesn't care to explain exactly why. And the two are happy to elope - not once, but several times in a row, and oh my god, 'will they, won't they,' just go on, and frickin' on.
The film is directed by Allahabad boy Tigmanshu Dhulia (Paan Singh Tomar, Saheb Biwi Aur Gangster), who whether he likes it or not is probably better known for the dialogue, "Jab tak Hindustan mein saneema hai, log c****iye bante rahenge," that he delivered as an actor in Anurag Kashyap's iconic Gangs Of Wasseypur (2012). Such is how crisp dialogues (like tag-lines in ads) work on us anyway.
Whether this film itself is part-autobiographical or not, Dhulia got noticed as a filmmaker with his debut Haasil (2003) - at the time a rare, robust insider's account of his home-town, and campus politics in a north Indian small-town. Over the years, that script (or the premise, if you may) has been milked so much to death, that it's turned into a tiring genre of its own.
Ali Fazal (similarly seen as a UP ruffian in the Amazon Prime series, Mirzapur) plays the protagonist here - a role that I'm told has been through several replacements (Imran Khan, Shahid Kapoor, etc) in the past. Although at some portions he sounds/behaves a lot like Dhulia himself, Fazal is competent to the core (no doubt). As is the female lead (Shraddha Srinath), making her Hindi film debut.
The film itself though does little to the genre, besides deliberately revisit some old-world Bollywood cliches. Maybe there's some subversion (that I'm unable to see). Maybe a full-blown, big-screen romance hinges much on the scale, for effective suspension of belief, which is sadly missing. Either way, one suspects, much of this movie pretty much remains in the filmmaker's imagination/head. Rest of it, quite honestly, gave me a bit of a headache.
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