Star Cast: Vijay Sethupathi, Vikrant Massey, Sanjay Mishra, Tanya Maniktala, Sachin Khedekar, Pulkit Shorey, and ensemble.
Director: Santosh Sivan
What’s Good: Vijay Sethupathi plays a part like he belongs to another film and is much better than the one he actually is in.
What’s Bad: An ace DOP turned director fails even to create a visual spectacle; forget everything else. Also, the guts to title your movie Mumbaikar and not use the city at all.
Loo Break: Take plenty because nothing happening on screen is doing justice to either the source material or its audience.
Watch or Not?: Watch the original. With some loopholes, Maanagaram is way nuanced and moving.
Language: Hindi (with subtitles).
Available On: Jiocinema
Runtime: 123 Minutes.
Four strangers cross paths unknowingly in Mumbai and get entangled in a deadly thread that leads to mess. When all of them try to solve the puzzle together, they mess things even more only to realise that the game was never about them.
How many more remakes of good films until we realise that the essence of some stories belongs to their root landscape, and if you cannot translate it in your milieu, it is a waste of not just your time but an entire village will be involved in making it? Lokesh Kanagaraj’s Maanagaram was about a city, and the map of it had four people walking through it like cursors trying to stay alive, literally and figuratively. That movie has its core intact; the emotions landed, the writing spoke to the audience, and the technical department worked hard to give it a certain feel, and one that was good.
But when Santosh Sivan decided to direct a remake, he hired Himanshu Singh, Aradhana Sah, and Amit Joshi to rehash the original and not really blow life into the new script. What it churned out is a movie that belongs nowhere geographically, has no respect for the city it tries to structure itself into, and fails to evoke anything. Of course, one can argue that the story didn’t need the essence of Bombay, because it is a universal story. But why name it ‘Mumbai’kar, then? There are so many beautiful sequences in the original that could have been molded into the essence of Mumbai: the local trains, public transport, the alleys of the Southern zone, and even more. But you never really see the Bombay you have been living in. Then why the title?
Just like the movie forgets to acknowledge the city it proudly uses as its title, it also forgets to borrow the soul from the original. The fact that this is just a rehash makes it a flat story that has no high points even when the drama in the story is at its peak. Add to it the fact that the person writing this has seen the original twice. There is nothing to describe further in Mumbaikar, because it never even tries to delve into the deeper ideas of these people who are technically all grey. The only character it somewhere builds well is Don, played by Vijay Sethupathi, who was duped into this. Even Ranvir Shorey gets three scenes where he plays a cardboard gangster eating Vada Pav, the only Mumbai representation they could think of.
All the actors working on Mumbaikar are seasoned performers who have proved their mettle in several other projects. But the script is so one-tone and flat that there is only much they can do. Like Vijay Sethupathi gets the most interesting part, and the man only knows how to perform brilliantly. For a man who has the aim to just be famous even if it comes with doing an illegal job, he is convinced about his part and sells it like no one else’s business. But script forgets to wrap up his story.
Likewise, Vikrant Massey ends up being a one-tone character with no scope for the audience to imagine his future. The same is for Tanya Maniktala, who, like the original, ends up only being a plot device. Hridhu Haroon tries his level best to make this work. He is the second best after Vijay and manages to hook the audience for a bit. But the script never supports. Sanjay Mishra is supremely sidelined and I wish he didn’t sign up for this.
Santosh Sivan as a director never tried to look beyond the frame. For him, the story is only what is happening in the moment, and the idea that the world continues to exist beyond it is alien. The editing is so haphazard that you can see lazy cuts. The visuals never do justice to anything. A parking lot for an IT firm is painted in pink lights like one is supposed to dread it. The vibe feels so forced due to this at points.
The background score is average and adds nothing to the overall experience.
For a movie titled Mumbaikar, the biggest question is, where is Mumbai? With no nod to the city or its vibe, this is an unnecessary dull remake. Feel sorry for Vijay Sethupathi.
MUMBAIKAR releases on 02 June, 2023.
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