By: Keyur Seta
Director: Nikhil Mahajan
Producers: IME Motion Pictures and Arbhaat Nirmitee
Writer: Nikhil Mahajan
Cast: Girish Kulkarni, Sonali Kulkarni, Sai Tamhankar
Music: Atif Afzal
Genre: Dramatic Thriller
Rating: * * ½
Story Outline: Working as a private detective in the early 90s, Amar Apte (Girish Kulkarni) struggles to make a living which becomes a reason for his wife Prachi’s (Sonali Kulkarni) constant nagging. Like most of the private detectives, Amar often gets into trouble due to his profession. His life takes an unexpected turn when the beautiful Neha (Sai Tamhankar) offers him the task of unraveling her husband’s extra-marital affair. Unknowingly, Amar gets into the nasty world of seduction and deceit.
Review: Unconventional cinema can be a welcome break from the usual run-of-the-mill or tried and tested formulas. But there is also a danger of getting carried away by the genre. This is exactly the issue with Nikhil Mahajan’s Pune 52. The film surely has a number of praiseworthy moments to its credit but in trying to be too unconventional, the end result turns out to be not what we expected from it. One should also note that the film suits more to those interested in the film noir genre than the usual masses.
During the initial moments, the unhurried narration (Mahajan) works as it helps the audience get involved in the interesting yet unusual world of Amar, his working style and the issues in his life including his ever-taunting wife. What strikes you instantly is the characterization of Amar which is just like any other common, middle class man rather than a conventional or heroic detective. There is a high degree of smartness shown in the linking of few scenes and some witty dialogues.
Despite his first movie, Mahajan matches international standards in filming some extraordinary scenes. He should also be lauded for daring to try such a bold subject in Marathi cinema. However, the reason for setting the story in the early 90s is not clearly known.
Later on in the first half, the pace drops down after creating interest. Fortunately, there is an interesting turn in the pre-interval portion and some engaging and humorous moments in the second half. A shocking twist, the most defining moment in this half, raises your expectations for a thrilling culmination but this is where the film starts going downhill. Not only do the events from here on appear unconvincing and confusing, but also the slow pace starts testing your patience. Lastly, the sudden climax doesn’t satisfy you and leaves some important questions unanswered.
The film receives tremendous support from the technical department. Jeremy Reagan, cinematographer from New Zealand, has brilliantly captured the film according to its subject. He even shows his class in his first feature film in the scenes where a hand held camera was required. The same brilliance is acquired by Hyun-jung Shim’s impactful background score. Although the editing (Abhijeet Deshpande) is sleek and sharp, it should have shortened the length of the film. The song ‘Jag Sare Badle’ suits the subject.
The performance of the lead trio is a big plus point. Girish Kulkarni once again proves his versatility by playing a difficult character exceedingly well. He not only succeeds in speaking through his expressions but also impresses in the scenes where he has to shout out of anger. Sonali Kulkarni shows her class as a nagging, middle class housewife.
Sai Tamhankar is remarkable. She produces the subtle sensuality and mystery needed by her character with ease. Bharti Achrekar, Kiran Karmarkar, Shrikant Yadav, Swanand Kirkire and G P Deshpande play their supporting parts well.
Overall, Pune 52 is a bold attempt which could have been much better but for the writing. As the film suits more for the festival audience, its chances at the box-office rely only in the first week due to the hype.