Anurag Kashyap’s Paanch Movie Review: Flash of Brilliance


I choose the word Flash very carefully because Paanch at the end of the day is just a flash of Anurag Kashyap’s nascent brilliance. In fact, there are a slew of those flashes throughout the movie, but somehow they remain disjointed and don’t add up to form anything awesome. Though the film is restlessly volatile throughout, it doesn’t quite deliver that final punch in the gut, and instead chooses to deliver intelligent filmy thrills.

Paanch starts of as a crime tale told in interrogation flashbacks. The underground mood is setup very deftly in the flashbacks, which introduces us to the Paanch. They are a bunch of weed-smoking binge-drinking college going guys whom every one of us has met at some point of time in the college years; the guys with a care-a-damn exterior and with a fuck you attitude all over their body language. And such a group is always incomplete without a butt-of-the-jokes guy. Someone has to endure all the ridicule and is also expected to take it all in the right spirit. The fuck you guys need him to feed their already expanded egos. They exercise their power, their attitudes relentlessly on the guy. The problem with the fuck you guys is they are so used to putting up the I’m fearless and ruthless image that whenever that image is breached their defense mechanism sets in motion and hell breaks loose.

Paanch (1)Luke (Kay Kay Menon) is that archetypical fuck you guy and Pondy (Vijay Maurya) is the butt-of-the-jokes guy. And Luke is not just another guy with an image problem. He is THE guy with an image problem. His defense mechanism drives him to sheer lunatic levels. He bullies the other guys to intimidating levels. And if anyone of them tries to oppose or counter bully him, violence grips Luke and he breaks loose. With him in the room the atmosphere is always volatile. When a certain caper goes wrong, things get ugly and in a blood boiling moment Luke murders a guy. This event triggers further mishaps and the five of them quickly spiral down into an abyss of guilt and helplessness.

So as you can see Paanch has a very potent premise and in fact a perfect setting for Anurag Kashyap to revel in with his kinda characters and dialogues. The film starts off choppily but slowly gathers momentum and rises occasionally to gut-wrenching levels. Half the credit here goes to Kay Kay’s mind-numbing performance. And again half the credit of that performance goes to Anurag Kashyap. The performance is monstrous. It chews the scenery as well as the people around. Every other character complements it in their own humble way. The two places where the bunch frequently hangs out; their house of course and a garage where they jam together; are lit and shot superbly to lend a very queasy claustrophobic feel to the proceedings.

Tejaswini Kolhapuree in PaanchSomething horribly wrong happens with the last ½ an hour. *SPOILER START* Suddenly the movie shifts gear and enters into a Usual Suspects kinda mode. *SPOILER END* The story suddenly feels contrived (maybe it is supposed to) and the entire unsettling feeling, which had build up due to the larger part of the film, vanishes. This certain change of gears felt very jarring, clearly robbing the film of the grim and grit. *SPOILER START* The characters suddenly loose their identifiable vulnerabilities and become Joker like schemers. *SPOILER END*

The performance and character which stood out for me apart from Kay Kay was of Aditya Shrivastava. His character is essentially someone like us who, though is smack in the middle of the proceedings, is observing things around with a steadfast yet laidback presence. He too is completely baffled by Luke’s lunacy. And the moment, when he stands up against Luke towards the latter part of the movie, is purely exhilarating.

Kay Kay Menon in PaanchMain Khuda was very amateurly shot. It looked like a home video. I’m not saying it should have been shot with a huge stage and laser lights ala Rock On. The song is special. It deserved something better. The subway idea was good, but somehow I couldn’t feel that on-the-streets thrill. Maybe because of the unreal lighting used or the thanda sad bhaade ka crowd. The energy was missing. The last part of the song delivers the sorta punch I expected from the whole song. The part when Kay Kay and Aditya Shrivastava get teary eyed followed by Kay Kay and crowd crooning the song alternately ‘Saans lo. Dum bharo. Chillakar Sabse Kaho…Sar jhuka khuda hoon main. Aasmanon pe khada hoon main…Main Khudaaaa…’ That pumped me up big time. That’s how I thought the whole song should have been shot. Anyways the song entered my system again after all those years, and I’m desperate to download or even buy a CD if available.

Without Kay Kay’s performance, Paanch could have easily had a ‘Love sex Betrayal’ caption and passed of as an above average fare. But Luke compels me to rate the film much higher than the choppy screenplay and a flat out bad finale allows it to be. It is after all an Anurag Kashyap film. His mastery of individual scenes doesn’t transcend to the film as a whole. I had similar issues with Gulaal. His films somehow don’t have the fluidity or the poetry of events which Vishal Bharadwaj’s films have in abundance. They seem to be a collection of great scenes. Great scene-cut-great scene-cut and so on. Black Friday was no doubt an exception. But Paanch, Dev D and Gulaal, all of them show this same weakness. But anyways like all his films Paanch has Kashyap’s distinctive intensity driving things forward, and for that alone, it deserves a theatrical release and thus a much wider audience.


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