By Vidya Pradhan
If you had any doubts about the survival of the film noir genre in Bollywood, this is the movie to put them all to rest. Mithya, meaning ‘fiction’, is another of director Rajat Kapoor’s eccentric, low-budget experiments and for the right viewer, this tragic comedy (or comic tragedy)is a worthwhile watch.
V.K , played by Ranvir Shourey( one half of comic duo Ranvir-Vinay) is a struggling actor making ends meet by working as an extra in the fringes of the movie industry in Mumbai. A chance encounter with certain gang members upturns his life as it turns out that his face resembles that of the gang’s leader Raje. In a black parody of Don, the second-in-command of the gang plots to have Raje killed and have the look-alike installed in his place.
To elaborate more on the plot would be to give away the many twists and turns that almost induce motion sickness in the viewer. Suffice to say that nothing that happens next is anticipated by either the hapless V.K. or the audience. In a darkly comic fashion, the story uncoils its way to its short and startling climax.
Mithya is populated by extremely talented but lesser known theater actors. Ranvir Shourey is brilliant in the role of the puppet whose only mistake is being in the wrong place at the wrong time. His inevitable fate in such a dangerous game is pretty obvious to him right from the beginning but his character plays his ill-fated role with a bravura insouciance. This is a role most lead actors would give their right arm to play. Alas, mainstream Bollywood just does not have room for such offbeat performances. As the Hamlet-loving wannabe-actor, Ranvir Shourey gives an Oscar worthy performance as V.K comes to terms with what the wheels of circumstance have in store for him.
Naseeruddin Shah as the don’s faithless lietenant and Saurabh Shukla as his sidekick turn in terrific performances too. Vinay Pathak of Ranvir-Vinay Aur Kaun also enriches the cast.
Neha Dhupia adds glam value as the moll with whom V.K. falls in love, despite his trying circumstances. Originally fated to become one of the many item girls littering A-list movies, Neha wisely chose to go the indie route. Despite her acting skills being strictly passable, she has built up an impressive resume of art-house fare, including movies like Ek Chaalis Ki Last Local and Dus Kahaaniyan.
The only reason films like Mithya can be made and their filmmakers can survive is thanks to the multiplex phenomenon, which may be responsible for the renaissance of Bollywood.
Mithya is not for the faint of heart. It is darkly funny, tragic and does not offer redemption at the end. It is also the work of an improvisational and raw director whose previous movies have been both critical and commercial duds. But if you are a fan of black comedies like Pulp Fiction, give it a try – you may be surprised.