Film Review: Johnny Gaddar


Film: Johnny Gaddar

Produced by: Adlabs Films Ltd

Director: Sriram Raghavan

Star Cast: Dharmendra, Neil Mukesh, Zakir Hussain, Dharmendra, Rimi Sen, Vinay Pathak, Ashwini Kalsekar

Rating: 3/5

It has, indeed been a long long time that one has got the taste of a true suspense thriller. Thoroughly justifying the tribute the director gives master-director Vijay Anand and pulp-thriller king James Hadley Chase right in the beginning of the film, Sriram Rahavan’s Johnny Gaddar, lives upto its mighty challenge. A film meant solely to keep you glued in your seat, keeps you there.

Johnny Gaddar is a story of five smugglers who deal in illegal transactions for quick money. The five include an interesting melange of characters of all ages beginning from Seshadri, a smuggler past his prime but full of steel and the leader of the group (played charmingly by Dharmendra). The others include a club owner Shardul (superbly played by Zakir Hussain), a casino owner Prakash (played by the ever-versatile Vinay Pathak), Shiv, a wrestler (the CID gent Daya Shetty) and a stocks broker and the youngest member of the group, Vikram (Neil Mukesh in his well-played debut). Thrown is in an angle of adultery treated not as the spice but as almost another character. The film revolves around a deal gone wrong and follows the events that unravel and change the lives of the five involved permanently.

The film treads a difficult path in choosing to stay away from the ‘whodunnit’ plot. The story makes the audience an eye-witness to the crime and then takes over from there. From then on, with mechanical precision, it unravels sequence after sequence to its conclusion which almost seems providential in its logic. There is no sequence that one has not seen before and there is no mind-blowing ingenuity but nothing seems unoriginal for the same. The film takes the believable realities of situations, emotions and human failings and twists it in a delectable fare of dazzling drama. That is where it succeeds.

The skilful writing of the film is also revealed in its characters who, though skimpily sketched makes the audience relate to them. The hallmark of a drama is as much the potency of its situations but also the ability of its characters to draw the viewers into their lives. That is does but commendably leaves out any bias or judgement for its characters from the audience. Another Chase-attribute.

The film is helped immensely by its ensemble cast. Dharmendra as the man-of-mettle and experience is a treat to watch. Vinay Pathak and Zakir Hussain are brilliant in their performances of characters with indiosyncracies that are part of their trade… Daya Shetty is good in a limited part. Neil Mukesh justifies his debut with a tight and controlled performance and although not completely upto the mark he definitely displays potential. Rimi Sen is apt for her role and plays the nubile, unwilling wife well. But it is Ashwini Kalsekar, as Prakash’s wife who deserves a special mention. With her histrionics she makes the extreme seem natural and swings from mellow to stern with great ease. An actress to watch out for. Govind Namdeo in his cool-as-cucumber-cop cameo is another treat to savour and one wonders when will this under-rated actor get his due in the industry.

The film keeps its pace and avoids everything avoidable. The web of deceit, lies, betrayal and survival that it weaves tightens efficiently towards the end leaving no logical or emotional loopholes unplugged. The screenplay treats the film as a serious business of suspense thriller and sticks to that and wins hands down in telling a fine story Chase-style.

This is adequately helped with some taut editing and fabulous cinematography by Murleedharan K. C. The opening sequence is a full-throated tribute to 70’s cinema with its bright, dark colours and negatives merging with graphics. It sets the tone for the rest of the film well. The music in the form of background score and tracks help the film along, never over-shadowing or under-playing. The inclusion of the tracks is reminiscent of 70’s style cinema again, with high-pitched scaling decibels either portending a fatal twist. It is to its credit that it is never intrusive.

Sriram Raghavan comes up tops again in taking his audience on a thrill-ride. The talented director knows how to manipulate every significant plot-point to leave the viewer with adrenaline-rushed ‘what next’? The same seamless unravelling that we are used to watching in Vijay Anand’s films is seen here. The sprinkling of visuals and references giving tribute to these maestros and the various influences the film is shaped under is another feature to its credit.

Johnny Gaddar is a fine example of well-made pulp cinema that succeeds at all levels. Choose this over any comedy that might tend to lure you. Definitely a more worth-while experience.