First things first, 99 Songs has to be one of the more good looking films to have been designed for the big screen. In practically every frame, there is some deal of classy element and aesthetics that have been infused by writer-producer A.R. Rahman and first time feature film director Vishwesh Krishnamoorthy. There is a definite attempt that has been put by the team comprising of everyone from the cinematographer to the production designer to lend a rich feel to the film. Furthermore, heavy use of VFX only adds in giving 99 Songs a visual appeal.
However, from the core storytelling perspective, the film doesn’t quite reach similar levels. As a matter of fact even the one line story of the film, which is for the lead actor Ehan Bhat to be challenged by his prospective father-in-law [Ranjit Barot] to ‘create a song that changes the whole world’ and then get married to his daughter [Edilsy Vargas] isn’t something that can be digested easily. Back in time Alok Nath had challenged Salman Khan too to find a living in order to marry his daughter Bhagyashree in Maine Pyaar Kiya but thankfully wasn’t given the task to change the world!
Even to reach till here, which is actually the turning point of the film, director Vishwesh Krishnamoorthy takes quite some time. Till then, the film meanders in various direction and almost takes an art film course. There are static frames interspersed in the narrative that are supposed to be paintings trying to tell a story but don’t really do much. Moreover, there are so many songs trying to take the story forward but surprisingly, they don’t really work. For a film which has been titled 99 Songs, one would have expected songs to be a mainstay but alas!
This is also the reason why even though the running duration of 99 Songs is just a little over two hours, it seems much longer due to the slow narrative. Frankly, the film just doesn’t build pace at all, either in the first half or towards the interval point or even towards the climax. In fact for a film with such a massive challenge thrown in, which is to create a global chartbuster, one would have expected the proceedings to be euphoric. Still, since as an audience you aren’t quite involved with the characters so far, the culmination too doesn’t excite.
In the midst of it all there are supporting characters who come in, something which turns out to be a mixed experience again. Lisa Ray is graceful as ever though Manisha Koirala is rather abruptly placed. However, the best of the lot is Tenzing Dalha who is a livewire indeed. The young actor has been delivering some good back to back performances [Axone, Guilty] and now in 99 Songs too he comes up with as spirited act whenever he comes on the frame. He should certainly be seen more often. Ranjit Barot looks every but a richie-rich and carries himself well.
As for Ehan Bhat, he is of course a very good looking actor and hence adds on to the visual appeal. However, somehow his character itself is shown to be so dull that even his performance stays on the same note, both in terms of the body language as well as the dialogue delivery. Edilsy Vargas plays a character who cannot speak but despite these limitations, she tries to emote as much she can with just her facial experience.
That said, the film as a whole doesn’t quite turn out to be a wholesome experience. Had there been a tighter script and screenplay, the art of making a good looking film would have accentuated the commerce element as well.