Rajeev Masand’s Movie Review of Kaalakaandi

Cast: Saif Ali Khan, Shobita Dhulipala, Akshay Oberoi, Kunal Roy Kapur, Deepak Dobriyal, Vijay Raaz, Shenaz Treasurywala, Neel Bhoopalam, Amyra Dastur, Trinyari Singh

Director: Akshat Verma

There are moments of such inspired lunacy in writer-director Akshat Verma’s Kaalakaandi that you’ll find yourself laughing till your sides hurt. One of those involves a wannabe cowboy accidentally shooting himself in the crotch while imitating Feroz Khan’s moves on screen. Another involves an awkward but hilarious moment of honesty when one of the film’s protagonists, tripping on a psychotropic drug, tells a transgender person that he’s curious to know what she’s packing below the waist. “I want to see your Australia, your southern hemisphere, your Cape of Good Hope,” he says.

A similar sort of outrageous humor powered Delhi Belly, which Verma scripted. But Kaalakaandi is especially thin on plot and purpose.

Unfolding over a course of a single night in Mumbai, the film follows three separate narrative threads. In one, Saif Ali Khan’s character is informed by his doctor that he’s dying, and only has a few months to live. Having stayed off alcohol, cigarettes, and drugs all his life, he decides to throw caution to the wind and drops acid in the midst of running errands for his younger brother’s wedding.

In the second track, a young woman (Shobita Dhulipala), all packed and ready to fly out to Boston in a few hours, heads out to a friend’s birthday party with her boyfriend (Kunal Roy Kapur), only to be trapped at the nightclub when the police orders a drug raid.

And in the third track, a pair of small-time crooks (Deepak Dobriyal and Vijay Raaz, both terrific) returning from a job with bags of cash for their gangster boss, hatch a dangerous plan that could make them rich overnight.

Things start out promisingly enough, but only the track starring Saif Ali Khan has real meat to it. It’s also the funniest of the three, and features a winning supporting character in Sheela, a transgender prostitute (Nyari Singh), whom Saif befriends. The pair outwits an overweight constable and set off an unlikely friendship that is as genuine as it is funny. This track also features Akshay Oberoi as Saif’s younger brother, whose visit to an ex for one last booty call doesn’t go according to plan.

Some of the other supporting characters include Shenaz Treasurywala’s ditzy party girl and Neel Bhoopalam’s legendary gangster-with-one-glass-testicle. Both are good in these roles, but their characters deserved more screen time. As you may have guessed, the three disconnected narratives do meet eventually, but the link feels tenuous and forced. Despite its relatively crisp running time of under two hours, the film runs out of ideas post intermission and seems to go around in circles. There’s a big sangeet celebration that sticks out like a sore thumb, and too much existential bak bak that nearly put me to sleep.

Of the cast, Saif Ali Khan gets the best-written role, and he’s in top form, unfettered and clearly having a good time. He embraces the madcap requirements of the role, throwing himself into it completely. It’s a shame the film can’t keep up with him.

I’m going with two out of five for Kaalakaandi. The humor is hysterical but never consistent. And sadly there’s not a lot more to it.

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