Film: Mumbai Meri Jaan
Director: Nishikant Kamat
Producer: Ronnie Screwvala
Banner : UTV Motion Pictures
Cast : Kay Kay Menon, Irrfan Khan, Soha Ali Khan, Madhavan, Paresh Rawal, Vijay Maurya
A heartfelt story told brilliantly
We witness scores of movies but few have their heart in the right place. While we argue and lose sleep over what makes a good movie, Nishikant Kamat silently walks in with his city saga that is as universal as it gets, all the while tugging at our heart-strings.
Nishikant feels for the city. His heart throbs for its people and their fates. He is in touch with their humanity more than they themselves are and this is what makes Mumbai Meri Jaan stirring. A film about the Mumbai serial train blasts could have easily become a docu-drama or a sensationalized backdrop. But Nishikant takes all the situations this gave the Mumbaities, and puts them in front of us as it is, and tells us that somewhere everyone is a victim. Even us.
And he doesn’t hold terrorism alone responsible. The government, the laws of the land, media, our democracy and the much-abused ‘system’, find their way into his narrative. A paean to Mumbai suddenly seems like its bitterest critique but it is the way it is. The situations, the liabilities, the consequences, the reactions, the fears. And the tears.
Six stories make the collage that this film largely is. But so compelling is the narrative that awkward transitions are over-looked and dull moments become a respite to catch a still breath. The protagonists in each story are fighting their own bitter battles that the unforgiving world only adds to.
Kay Kay, a failing entrepreneur, turns almost fascist after the blasts with his anti-Muslim feelings that become more weighty than his financial problems. Vijay Maurya, an upright (and hence an innocent) policeman fighting his own emasculation by the system. Paresh Rawal, a soon-to-be-retired policemen, who realises the futility of his life at the end of his career as a policeman who never really did his duty. Soha Ali Khan, a bright exponent of the media, ruthlessly exploited by it when a personal tragedy strikes her. Irfan Khan, a lower middle class South Indian emigrant whose self-respect cannot take the ravages of materialist society. Madhavan, an upper middle class achiever who believes in all the jingoism of being true to one’s country, city and work and whose beliefs are tested acutely.
Through these stories the director tells us that the condition of being a Mumbaite is not simply difficult commutes and a high cost of living. It is the live fear of being targeted by terrorist attacks, fundamentalist factions, preying media and even the capitalist corporate. It is not about the survival of the fittest but just survival.
All protagonists battle these demons when their world falls apart after the gruesome 7/11 blasts. Nishikant takes us inside the heads and hearts of his people, making us live their pain and tears while they look for answers where none exist and take refuge in pacifism or resignation.
He does not resort to caricaturing or reducing the might of the opponent to prove a point or paint a victory. He shows a hopeless fight as one but also tends to impart reasoning that seems lame. The movie takes its time to unfold and beautifully layers the emotions they go through, stark on his protagonist’s faces. So moving is the story-telling that it compels us to inevitably question our own existence and search our own hearts for answers.
Sometimes the importance of a film and its validity overrides its genius and if there was ever a time it is with Mumbai Meri Jaan. The movie overreaches itself in its good intentions. It combines a host of contemporary issues, poignant and important that are resolved by simple philosophy or simple good-hearted fervor. More than once it preaches and sermonizes. Makes us learn lessons we have done by rote now, but those that don’t matter to us anymore precisely because they have been preached like this umpteen times.
But Mumbai Meri Jaan is much more than a human tale told by a human heart. It is more than the story of Mumbai’s grit and spirit. It is not about the problems that it faces and might cause it to sink one day. It is a realization that life deals us blows in its own unique ways but above all stands a pinch of human goodness. That is all one needs to survive.