Monday, May 28, 2007

Ek Chalis Ki Last Local - Wonderfully Weird

Year 2002 - Sanjay Gupta makes a film called Kaante, an unapologetic rip-off of Quentin Tarantino's Reservoir Dogs. Now we know that Quentin Tarantino approves of that version, but it was a rip-off nevertheless. There was very little creative input that went into the film, save the back-stories to the various characters (which QT digs, we're told).

Year 2007 - An obscure film called Ek Chalis Ki Last Local hits the screens. And, guess what? Hindi film audiences get to see the first true blue tribute to Quentin Tarantino's brand of filmmaking. Unlike his namesake Gupta, Sanjay Khanduri seems to know the difference between inspiration and plagiarism. His film has all the elements of a QT film - stylized violence, wonderfully weird situations, loads of black humor, lot of emphasis on 'normal' conversations, etc. - but the entire premise of the story and the way the director chooses to unfold the story is entirely his own.

Oh yes, his inspirations from a number of films is fairly obvious - the real-time through-the-night format is similar to Sudhir Misra's Is Raat Ki Subah Nahin, the ear-cutting scene is reminiscent of Reservoir Dogs, Abhay Deol's situation towards the climax makes you think Pulp Fiction, some of the characters seem straight out of the underworld created by RGV is his films. Yet, all these elements are tributes to the original - they're not copied blindly.

In some ways, all through this gem of a film I was reminded of Quentin Tarantino's masterpiece Pulp Fiction. If one were to put Pulp Fiction in a chronological order (that would kill that film, but never mind), it would be so much like Ek Chalis.... Again, don't get me wrong here. There is very little common between the plot or situations or characters of the two films, but the overall feel is very similar.

So you have this ear-cutting scene in the car, which, although a tribute to Reservoir Dogs, 'feels' like a delicious bhelpuri mixture of the 'Ezekiel' and the 'Bonnie Situation' episodes of Pulp Fiction. Abhay Deol's situation towards the latter half echoes the predicament of Marsellus Wallace in Pulp Fiction. The beer bar sequence in the beginning brings back strong memories of The Jack Rabbit Slim's sequence of Pulp Fiction, complete with film star look-alikes and ending with our protagionist finding himself in deep s***. The bass-stringed background music has the same surreal quality as 'Miserlou' in Pulp Fiction. Actually, the wonderful weirdness of most twists and turns in Ek Chalis... are like Pulp Fiction. They're sudden and shocking, yet so bizarre that you don't take them seriously, but end up saluting the writer's ingenuity. At the risk of sounding repetitive, I would again say that it's the 'feel' not the 'content' that's similar. And that, in my humble opinion, is the hallmark of homage.

I realize that what I've written above will make no sense to someone who hasn't watched Pulp Fiction. Well, what can I say? If you haven't watched Pulp Fiction, what have you been doing??? Forget it.

Coming back to Ek Chalis... what I really hated about the film was one small scene, where the existence of a 'beemar boorhi maa' is given as a justification for prostitution. I mean, how clich├ęd can one get. At least not in a film that otherwise brims with such ingenuous writing! This and a few other rough edges apart (especially in the editing department), Ek Chalis Ki Last Local is a real gem that shines through.

If only it was promoted properly! This film deserves to be seen.