Kuttey? or Kaminey?

Saw Kuttey a couple of days ago, a movie written and directed by Aasmaan Bhardwaj, son of Vishal Bhardwaj. The film, liberally borrowing plot points from VB’s Kaminey and style from Tarantino, is a gangster flick where a bunch of bad guys chase the same MacGuffin, in this case an armored van full of cash.

Quick review for the attention-deprived? It’s oooookay, I guess.

Kuttey may be full of criminals, but its biggest crime is the sheer waste of powerhouse talent in the form of Tabu, Konkona, Kumud Mishra, Radhika Madan, and a host of other talented ensemble actors who appear and disappear in the movie as stock characters (gangster, henchman, police inspector, rebellious daughter, etc.). I think the director imagined them as chess pieces, but they resemble checkers discs much more in their random movements to make the thin plot line work. Naseeruddin Shah (Naseer!) has a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it role that could have been done by an extra.

It’s hard not to compare Kuttey to Kaminey. Amole Gupte’s Bhope in Kaminey has a full backstory, and his motivations, whether to chase the loot or to forbid his sister’s marriage to Shahid Kapoor’s Guddu, are crystal clear. Here Shah’s Khobre is just in it for the money and we learn nothing about him. Same with Tabu’s corrupt police inspector. Even Konkona, who at least has a few dramatic scenes in the beginning, is a mysteriously transplanted Naxalite whose motivations can only be gleaned if you watch very carefully for the Communist Manifesto carelessly lying around in a shoot-out scene. Radhika Madan’s Lovely is not a patch on Priyanka Chopra’s Sweety, who we learn a lot about and appreciate as a human being. Here Lovely is just the don’s daughter rebelling against her arranged marriage to a builder’s son (another nod to Kaminey).

Is the problem with the movie the plethora of characters? I was reminded of Brad Pitt’s Bullet Train, which is another movie with a bunch of actors chasing something, but even with the non-stop action, you got a flavor of who each character was and what brought them there. And what about the Bengali brothers in Kaminey, who may have had 10 minutes of screen time total but were fully formed and wonderfully quirky characters. Much to my surprise, Kuttey and Kaminey have about the same run time, but Kaminey packs in so much more character development.

The difference, I think, is in the dialogues. There are virtually no dialogues in Kuttey that aren’t about the chase itself, which left me deeply unsatisfied. I just didn’t care about any of the characters, and I do like to have at least a couple of people to root for. They don’t have to be moral, but they do have to be interesting. Can you imagine not caring about a character played by Tabu or Konkona?

What’s worse is that the character with the most screen time is played by Arjun Kapoor, who is completely overshadowed by even the most insignificant actor appearing on the screen with him. Why? Why pick this untalented star child to base your story around when you had so many others marvelous actors right there?

I imagine an afterlife where all these non-lead characters sit around and talk about the heist-gone-bad and discuss what brought them to that particular moment in time. I would watch THAT movie.

If you enjoyed Kaminey, wait for Kuttey to appear on OTT. In the meantime, watch Kaminey again. It is my favorite gangster movie and possibly Shahid Kapoor’s best performance on screen.

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