I wrote this when Company was released. This is re-posted in response to Jabberwock's review
.Company - a review
Yogi Berra, known for his malapropisms once said, "It's deja vu all over again". I'm just back from the theatre after watching Company a film directed by Ram Gopal Varma and the statement by Mr. Berra seems to resound with meaning!
It is the retelling of a story that every male kid in Mumbai is familiar with, probably as familiar as they are with the characters in the Mahabharata and their filial battles thereof. It is the saga of Dawood Ibrahim and Chota Rajan, close associates who turned against each other and turned Mumbai into their bloody battleground.
The narrative begins with the promotion of Chandrakant Nagre, aka Chandu played by newcomer Vivek Oberoi, from a small time hoodlum to lieutenant of an up and coming don, Mallik, played by Ajay Devgun. The first half of the film covers the ascent of the duo. Ram Gopal Varma has chosen two vehicles to cover this period. One, a sleek editing style which is like watching a documentary in fast forward, a mind whirling changing of frames that cover business deals and murder in one breath interspersed with a few dialogues that cover the growing awareness of Chandu. The other vehicle is an ominous sounding background score by Sandeep Chowta that seems to tell the audience that disaster is just round the corner, but while they're waiting, they could tap their feet!
This part of the film is used to make brief forays into various relationships between Chandu and his mother, played by Seema Biswas and his wife, Kanu, played by Antara Mali. Her transformation from a demure lower class girl to a fashionable woman under the unstated influence of Saroja, Mallik's girlfriend, is quite staggering. Saroja (Manisha Koirala), is a character that could've been well developed. This lady seems to be fighting some inner battles while exhibiting a semblance of a conscience, a rarity in the 'dark side'. The ensemble is complete when Srinivasan, a diligent assistant Police Commissioner played by Mohanlal chases the protagonists to Hong Kong.
The second half of the film covers the ongoing schism between Chandu and Mallik and its aftermath. The hot pursuit of Chandu by Mallik which leads to Kenya is once again sleekly edited and the narrative moves from frame to frame. The end of the film is quite surprising and kudos must be given to Ram Gopal Varma for not falling for the trap of sermonizing or eulogizing. It is exactly as it would happen in the underworld – at a time and place when one least expects it.
The entire cast has done a remarkable job in bringing the limited shades of their characters to the fore. Unfortunately, Varma could've developed most of the main roles much better than he has done. Manisha Koirala not only looks stunningly beautiful but underplays her part with gusto. While that may seem like a contradiction in terms, you have to realize this is the same woman who cried through an eminently forgettable film called Mann just a few years back. Her role, probably the most important in the film, since she causes the schism in the first place had such potential that you're left wondering why Varma did not develop it further. This is an Ajay Devgun whom we've admired for his work in Thakshak, Zakhm and Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam and he doesn't disappoint. Seema Biswas as Chandu's mother is brilliant and her character is rather well thought out. She doesn't instill any values in her son and her main job as a mother, seems to be to provide ample encouragement to his misguided endeavors.
Anyone who has seen Mohanlal in Malayalam films before are well aware of his potential to fit so precisely into the character that he is playing, that one tends to forget that he's acting! But it is Vivek Oberoi who carries the heavy burden of taking the entire weight of the film on his rookie shoulders and does an admirable job of it. While he is no Manoj Bajpai, this lad has potential.
So how do I rate this film? Well, it did not disappoint me, since my expectation of Hindi films post Kabhi Kushi Kabhi Gham is abysmally low. However, I did expect more from Ram Gopal Varma since I rated his 'Satya' very high. While he did a great job in showing us the top rung of the underworld without sugar coating it or justifying why they are the way they are, the protagonists seemed to be far tied up with the inertia of their actions to have multiple facets to their selves. The role of a minister, Raote, played by Ad man & playwright Bharat Dabholkar is irredeemably badly crafted. There is also too much of Satya in the film to be ignored and that brings the feeling of déjà vu to the fore.
However, it is not your run of the mill Hindi film. It is far better than the usual fare dished out by the Johars and the Chopras. In fact, Varma takes a dig at Karan Johar and does not hold any punches while depicting Salman Khan's underworld connections. The downside of the film is that it will not be appreciated or even understood by a cross cultural audience, who do not have background information on Dawood Ibrahim and Chotta Rajan.
Rating: *** 1/2