Director Karan Lalit Butani’s Phamous boasts of a stellar cast but underutilises each one of them to deliver a tale often seen before in Bollywood
Look at these names. Jimmy Shergill, Pankaj Tripathi, Kay Kay Menon, Shriya Saran, Mahie Gill, Jackie Shroff- all together in one film. With such a stellar cast on board, the film can be a potential path breaker in every aspect of filmmaking. But a case of direction gone astray gives you ‘Phamous’ where you wonder why actors of such calibre signed the film in the first place.
In a tale of power, politics, and fight to becoming ‘dhaakad‘ amid desi kattas, guns and foreign pistols set in Ram Sarai in Chambal, the upcoming goon Kadak Singh (Kay Kay) abducts the daughter of current don Shambhu Singh (Jackie Shroff) right on her wedding day. Shambhu who’s otherwise known for uplifting the village is arrested when he mistakenly shoots his own daughter, making Kadak the new boss. Kadak is whole heartedly friends with Ramvijay Tripathi (Pankaj Tripathi), a local MLA and a satyromaniac who helps him in every possible way. How the equations in village change with the involvement of Raadhe (a little boy grown up to be Jimmy Shergill) in a parallel track is what the story is about.
The story by Butani himself is loose and lacks punch. Take RGV, Anurag Kashyap, Vishal Bharadwaj and the likes, and mix their films a bit. What you get is Phamous. Films with desi goons and dacoits firing bullets for no reason just to establish their supremacy- have been done to death. Hence you see nothing new in terms of storyline in this one.
The male and female characters, situations, setting, the backdrops, the elements used to establish the plot, and the filmmaking devices used to convey the story- all seem familiar and there is nothing novel that you see or experience.
You see glimpses of popular films like Gangs of Wasseypur, Omkara, Paan Singh Tomar, Bandit Queen, Babumoshai Bandookbaaz and the likes right from the first scene. While you expect something new in the story, it remains reduced to a mere tale of quest of power where you need to dethrone the already established guy with crass language, lustful men, and beautiful women characters who would be objectified you know, amid a lot of bloodshed.
The film does gain some momentum right before the interval (mind you after some 55mins of runtime) where you get some adrenaline rush and you expect some change of action post interval. But sadly, the writing gets predictable. You predict what can happen, and you are never proven wrong.
What is good about the 114mins film is its performance by the talented array of actors. Its the performances that make the film watchable. The same film with less capable actors would have been a sheer waste of time, energy, and money. You sit through the film only because the actors do the engaging bit for you. But the writing rules, undoubtedly. So even such brilliant actors aren’t even to save the film from sinking.
The dialogues aren’t powerful. The setup for the action isn’t gripping enough.
Jimmy Shergill as an innocent fellow caught amidst deadly goons is good. He has a vulnerability that is charming. This is not his best act, as he’s capable of much more than this. But he’s fairly good.
Kay Kay Menon and Pankaj Tripathi are just brilliant. You hate both of them. They are sincere in their work so much so that their world on screen seems real. Yes, the plot gets depth only through these two men. You see Tripathi with disgust owing to his sexual urges. He’s just too good and makes you believe in the character. On the other hand Kay Kay delivers a matured act emoting a lot through his eyes. Both of them have a body language that suits to the plot completely.
Jackie Shroff has a brief role and he is under utilized just like Shriya Sharan and Mahie Gill. They are great actors- both of them but the story doesn’t give them much scope.
Music is average. So is the background score. No track is memorable and the background score too could have been much better to create the required emotions. A lot of times the scenes require you to feel sad or happy or feel the pain. But there’s nothing done on the music front to make you emotional.
Editing by Nayan Haresh Bhadra is weak. The scenes fade regularly- a norm followed all through- a technique seemingly naive. They don’t even create the thrill required otherwise.
Cinematography by Chetan Vohra also lacks to a great deal where the film looks substandard at various junctures. The production design by Dhananjay Mondal however is good. The locations and the sets suit the plot appropriately.
What the film needed was matured direction. Whatever the state the film is in today is only because it doesn’t have the flavour in direction. Looking at the trailers, it seemed a wonder as to why the makers didn’t market the film. The vacant theatres across all sectors however don’t make any difference to the overall appeal of the film. It deserved quality. The starcast deserved a better film.