There is a certain energy to a megapolis like Bombay. A city, teeming with stories, millions of them, just waiting to be told. And at night, when the streetlights burn brightest, the darkest tales come to life. Akshat Verma, who burst on to the scene with Delhi Belly back in 2011, travels southwards for his debut directorial about 3 stories set on a single rainy night. But the question is, does Kaalakaandi possess the same fizz that made Delhi Belly a massive hit back then?
Kaalakaandi consists of 3 stories that overlap through an absolutely madcap night in the lives of the protagonists involved. A banker (Saif Ali Khan) is confronted with his own mortality on the eve of his brother’s (Akshay Oberoi) wedding, and decides to throw caution to the wind and follow through on his bucket list, while his brother grapples with his decision to get married. A young student (Sobhita Dhulipala), about to head to the US on a scholarship is dragged to a friend’s party by her boyfriend (Kunal Roy Kapur), not knowing that her night’s gonna get crazy. 2 underworld deliverymen (Deepak Dobriyal and Vijay Raaz) find their loyalties shifting as they transfer a massive amount to their boss, but will greed override their survival instinct?
In spirit, while Kaalakaandi is a successor to Delhi Belly, there’s a lot more heart in the execution. Akshat Verma’s writing is sharp, funny, and irreverent for the most and yet there’s a sense of melancholy to the stories as the unforgiving skyline of Bombay looms large over them. However, while every bit of the portions involving Saif are pitch-perfect, it is the other stories where the writing falters, primarily in the story involving the underworld as one gets the feeling that it relies a little too much upon the talents of the actors in them, and doesn’t lay a strong enough foundation for them to really make an impact.
After a string of indifferently written movies, Saif Ali Khan finally gets a role he can really cut loose in, and it’s an absolute delight to watch. He brings a sense of dignity and pensiveness to the madness, and it works, and in some bits might even remind you of Michael Keaton’s performance in Birdman. Sobhita Dhulipala is absolutely fantastic as the young student trying to deal with her changing circumstances and makes a case for herself as a talent to watch in the industry. Isha Talwar adds the necessary warmth to an otherwise dark tale. Deepak Dobriyal and Vijay Raaz are fantastic as ever, especially Dobriyal who displays a feral side to his character, rarely seen in Bollywood. A special mention must be made of Nary Singh whose comic timing is off the charts!
To sum it up then, Kaalakaandi is an absolutely fun watch in spite of its imperfections for those of you who could do with more situational humor and less slapstick!