Planet Bollywood
Producer: Padam Kumar
Director: Padam Kumar
Starring: Uday Chopra, Nandita Das, Rahul Dev, Nauheed Cyrusi, Irfan Khan, Nisha Arora, Purab Kohli, Akash Saigal
Music: Vishal & Shekhar & Sandesh Shandilya
Lyrics: Vishal Dadlani, Macrand Deshpande & Javed Akhtar
Genre: Thriller
Recommended Audience: Parental Guidance
Approximate Running Time: 143 mins
Film Released on: 20 June 2003
Reviewed by: Shahid Khan  - Rating: 7.0 / 10
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Public Rating Average: 5.11 / 10 (rated by 410 viewers)
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Oh no, not another drama about the underworld, I hear you cry. As well as love stories, Bollywood is also fixated upon stories about gangsters and the underworld. Like love stories, most films about the underworld tend to have similar plots but they rely on the director’s treatment and the acting. Does “Supari” cut the mustard? Yes, partly. But some parts of the movie also strike the wrong notes making it a flawed but decent entertainer.

Aryan (Uday Chopra), Chicken (Purab Kohli), Munshy (Akash Saigal) and Papad (Rahul Dev) are four friends who are bored with their humdrum lives. In order to realise their dream of big houses and classy cars, they place a bet on a cricket game with some shady people in the hope of winning a major fortune. Instead, this action lands them in deep trouble and they end up owing debt to the tune of five lakh rupees. Now, the person they are in debt to is Mamta (Nandita Das), a don of the underworld. She makes them a deal- settle your debts by becoming contract killers and getting rid of unwanted people. Aryan takes up this deal and his friends reluctantly follow his lead. They are assisted by Baba (Irfan Khan), one of Mamta’s yes men. They experience a rush of power from killing and they are soon drawn into the murky world of corruption and dirty money. There is only one thing that stops them from completely enjoying their new lifestyles- their conscience. Realising the situation he is in, Aryan tries to leave this dishonest life behind but not without deadly consequences.

Uday Chopra tries his sincere best but he is definitely miscast. He is obviously trying to get out of the typecasting that he has created for himself, that of a cheeky but charming loverboy (as witnessed in “Mohabbatein” and “Mere Yaar Ki Shaadi Hai”). He does not really have the versatility to extend his acting capabilities to a slightly more complex role of a young man trapped in the clutches of the underworld. Witness his scream of anguish when a certain character commits suicide. Chopra fails miserably. Also, watch his scenes after he has just committed the first murder. It is telling that he has no idea how to act out such scenes. However, it is not all bad news on his part. He is really likeable when he comes to the aid of a pregnant woman and has no choice but to stay with her throughout the labour. His expressions in that scene are just spot on especially when you can see that he really wants the baby to be alive and he is panicking because it looks like it might be dead. Chopra’s acting is not first-rate throughout the whole of the movie but he has made an effort to dissolve himself into the character he is playing (even if it is not completely successful) and that should be commended.

One person that you can definitely rely on to provide us with some real acting is none other than Nandita Das. What an incredible performance. What expressive eyes! I loved the fact that an underworld don is actually a woman this time round (as opposed to the usual cliché of having a male villain). The thing that spoils her character is the fact that she seems to develop a soft spot for Uday’s character. Happily, the director and writers refuse to divulge whether she is actually in love with him or not, leaving the plot open for viewers to make up their own minds.

As for the rest of the cast, they are adequate. Unfortunately, Irfan Khan is mostly wasted and he seems a little uninterested. One does not tend to mind too much because it is still a treat to watch him share scenes with Das, two very talented actors. Out of the group of friends, Rahul Dev steals the show as Papad. Akash Saigal and Purab Kohli are very average in their roles particularly Kohli who makes a hatchet’s job of the scene where he has a breakdown. Often when it is a story concerning a negative female character against the male lead, there is usually little for the heroine to do. In this case, the heroine is Nauheed Cyrusi, a newcomer. Her acting is raw and still needs to be developed but otherwise she has strong screen presence and has a brand of bubbliness that is akin to Preity Zinta’s. Nisha Arora plays Dev’s character’s love interest and she shows a lot of potential as an actress. Hope to see more of these two new-finds in the future.

Speaking of Cyrusi, she is shorn of make up and glam throughout most of the movie. So it is a bit disconcerting to find her looking like a supermodel in the wonderfully picturized, “Tujhe Chand Chahiye”. It is nice that there is only one full song here (the other songs are relegated mostly to the background) but at the same time it seems odd because it is the only one. The actual song is lovely and nice visuals mean that the song makes an impact.

What lifts “Supari” from a potential bore to a good movie is actually Padam Kumar’s direction. His direction is not always great though. For example, in Chicken’s breakdown scene, why does the camera keep twirling round and round the group of friends? That strikes as unnecessary. For the most part, Kumar’s direction unravels the story in a pleasing manner. He definitely knows how to crank up the tension in important scenes such as the shootout at the hospital. Going by the recent trend of horror movies, a contribution to that genre from Kumar would be welcome because he would definitely know how to get the audience to bite their nails. Sometimes, his attempts to crank up the tension does get a bit over the top. What is with the opera score that switches on everytime Das’s character makes an appearance? At times, it gets unintentionally comical. The misjudged background score does not really help things. The editing is crisp and keeps the story going at a cracking pace. Kumar experiments a little with the narrative too by starting from the middle of the story and beginning with a flashback of ten days earlier. Alas, the way the story ends is a bit of a disappointment. It seems like the writers were unsure of how to end the lively conflicts that they created and so they bump off just about nearly every character going.

The film could have been so much more without some of the flaws but if you try to ignore those then “Supari” is an entertaining film, which is helped by decent direction and some watchable performances.

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