A New Lease of Life

Life Ki Toh Lag Gayi

DIRECTOR: Rakesh Mehta

Cast: Kay Kay Menon, Ranvir Shorey, Manu Rishi, Pradhuman Singh, Neha Bhasin

Rating: **1/2

A bhai's grown-up son ( Menon) wants to take revenge on his father's killers. A cop (Rishi), whose only claim to fame is that he is from 'Haryanne', is under pressure to do or die. A heartbroken lover (Shorey) is stumbling about the city, trying to get a hold on himself, with the help of a mad rocker Bengali friend (Singh). A star-struck girl (Bhasin) from Chandigarh is hustling to get a break in the movies.

Five people, launched on different trajectories, the story told in parallel tracks, through one night in Mumbai: how different can this one be, given that there have been so many that have dealt with roughly the same theme, give or take a bhai or a bullet or two? You can't get a more obvious name than Life Ki Toh Lag Gayi, leading to all kinds of off-colour jokes. But the film proves that it is possible to take an old bottle, or at least an elderly one, and fill it with wine that bubbles and rises to the top at every other sip.

Right from the time it opens, the film makes you aware that it is aware of its position in the pantheon of movies with gangsta rap, desperate-to-become-starlets-pretties, bhai-log- ki-maarkaat. The writing in this new kid on the block is smart and understated, not trying too hard to cultivate difference, but setting itself apart simply because of that fact. That and the ensemble: this is a bunch of actors chewing gladly on what they've got.

Kay Kay has been a bit lost in his last few movies; he makes his angry and grieving son a real person. Ranvir Shorey's wanderings have a bit of looseness to begin with, but he gets it together as he goes along, and delivers a delicious whammy in the end. Neha Bhasin has the right degree of small-town gaucherie in her will-do-anything-to-get-a-break-in-Bollywood girl. The top honour is a tie between Manu Rishi and Pradhuman Singh, but maybe the latter has a slight edge. Rishi is wonderful as the medal-winning, mummy-loving cop 'from a good family', but Singh's playing of the reefer-smoking, rock-icon-worshipping fellow gives us a character rarely done in Bollywood, someone who can internalise and transmit the absurd.

... contd.

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