Film: Saheb Bibi Aur Gangster; Director: Tigmanshu Dhulia; Starring Sanjay Dutt, Jimmy Sheirgil, Mahie Gill, Chitrangda Singh; Rating: ***(3 stars)
It is tragically absurd to hear Lata Mangeshkar's ethereal flawless voice floating into the murky morally compromised dark and sordid world that Tigmanshu Dhulia insists on creating a third time around.
Why a third film based on a premise that mocked Guru Dutt's imperishable classic Sahib Bibi Aur Ghulam? I don't know. Only Dhulia and writer Sanjay Chauhan can answer their need to flog what is clearly a dead cause. Having said that, it is equally true that the third Sahib Bibi Gangster film is the most engaging film Dhulia has made in recent years.
Here he abandons the phoney commercial language he adopted in the disastrous Bullet Raja and the even more ersatz patriotism of his last work Raag Desh.
There is something tragically credible about the flawed and over-sexed characters in the Sahib Bibi Gangster axis. They are disarmingly disingenuous about their appetites and have no qualms in bringing their greed home. In an early episode the royal libertine Madhavi (played with lascivious authenticity) brings home a toy boy and then forgets about his presence. The next morning she sends him packing with a stern rebuke.
I have no idea who the young actor who plays the excitable toy-boy is. But he plays his appetite with relish in a movie that celebrates appetites.
After coming out of jail Madhavi's husband Aditya Pratap Singh (Jimmi Sheirgil, powerful as ever) makes love to his promiscuous wife explaining, "I had to make up for lost time."
Both the Gills, Mahie and Jimmy, pastmasters at projecting decadent promiscuity, bring a crackling electricity to a work that insists of bring on a short-circuit due to overloading. There are too many characters floating freely in Dhulia's moral world, caring little for how little sense their presence makes to the plot.
Why, for instance, is Shergil's faithful bodyguard Deepraj Rana's daughter brought in? She serves no other purpose than to crowd a cast populated with more people than it can handle. The worst sufferer is Sanjay Dutt. Supposedly the star of the show, Dutt's lines and presence are so shaky they make him look like a gangster who is afraid to lose his place in a game of musical chairs.
Nafisa Ali struts around as the Rajmata. She barely gets time to speak two lines in a row.
Dutt is neither convinced nor convincing as a Londoner (he runs a pub called, ha ha, House Of Lords in London) who must return home to face his nemesis, Dutt seems happy enough with his sketchily written role. But Chitrangda Singh is a miscast. By the time she gets down to performing a Mujra she seems to represent that desperation in some of our filmmakers who insist to master the commercial language even when they know zilch about it.
If it wasn't for Jimmy and Tara's screen presence where would this film be?
By Subhash K Jha for IANS (Subhash K Jha can be contacted at email@example.com)