Dir.  Ankush Bhatt. India. 2011.

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Ankush Bhatt’s ‘Bhindi Baazaar Inc’ is  basically a wannabe Godfather. The plot unravels with a chess game between two people Tez (Gautam Sharma) and Shroff (K K Menon) whose hidden motivations  are revealed only as the  game progresses move-by-move towards the endplay. Tez (Gautam Sharma) and Fateh (Prashant Narayanan) belong to Mamu’s (Pawan Malhotra) gang of pick pockets. The rival gang is controlled by Pande (Piyush Mishra)  who was once part of Mamu’s  gang but now control’s his own area. The story is set in the area between Bhindi Baazaar, a muslim dominated  ghetto  and Malabar hill, considered to be the most expensive, amongst the poshest localities  of Mumbai. Both Tez and Fateh, friendly rivals since childhood, aspire to move high-up in their gang, enough to be able to afford a home in Malabar hill. They are the pawns who make calculated moves to rise up to the top-most position in their gang. What  transpires on screen basically boils down to a killing field  bled by  gang wars between two rival factions and intra-gang byplay that has been a key to the destruction of most of the existing Mumbai  gangs and their leaders. Obviously inspired by real life, the narrative tells the story of two young boys who grow-up to become notorious criminals and their exemplary efforts to outwit each other to achieve their long-cherished dream of lording-it over Mumbai’s underbelly.

There is nothing new in the plot but debut-making director Ankush Bhatt’s treatment is definitively different. The narrative swings back and forth repeatedly,  from past to present cleverly delineated by a beautifully conceptualised game of chess. The intercutting appears novel and interesting  during the first half but thereafter it tends to irritating, tedious and untenable. The attempt at edge-of-the-seat excitement comes a cropper thereof.  There is mystery in the plotting but it’s not  interesting enough to hold your attention throughout. The central story appears well-developed and Ghalib Asadbhopali’s script and dialogues have a canny resemblance to real life, highlighting every aspect relating to gangs in Mumbai - be it their rules,  hierarchical structure or the underhand politics that help determine their leader.  The music and songs  barely  register, the item number featuring Catarina Lopez appears  distasteful.  But the innumerable twists and turns in the plot are smartly orchestrated and the characters appear quite believable. The cinematography is of a high quality, the by-lanes of Mumbai’s underbelly look true to form. The production design adds the necessary grit and the performances of the ensemble cast are effective. It’s the overindulgent scissor happy editing, poor quality post-production and too smart-to-be-coherent treatment that makes this film less than a solid edge-of-the-seat crime thriller!

Rating:   * *  

Johnson Thomas

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