What happens when a wannabe actor-turned-assistant director gets kidnapped at the Indo-Pak border and is held hostage by terrorists? That’s the unique premise of this delightful film.
Sunny (Sharib Hashmi), true to his name, is consistently cheerful. Even when his attempts at acting fail miserably (we see him in a hilarious audition, which he enacts with such enthusiasm, he has to be reminded it’s an advert for chocolate not a condom).
He gets a gig as an AD with an American film crew, with the shooting taking place at the sensitive Indo-Pak border in Rajasthan.
But a Pakistani terrorist group, that knew the crew’s schedule, decides to kidnap an American crew member to pressurize the Indian government into granting their demands. Thing is, a switcheroo happens and the terrorists kidnap Sunny instead. He is now taken to an isolated Pakistani village.
As always, Sunny sees the brighter side, and guides the befuddled terrorists on using the camera and shooting a hostage video, starring himself. As the terrorists say, “Roll, Rolling, Acting” (instead of action), he says ‘cut’ and asks for several retakes till he’s happy with the outcome.
He’s put up forcibly in the home of Aftaab (Inaamulhaq), a small-time dealer of pirated Bollywood films. The love of Hindi films bind Sunny and Aftaab together and they become unlikely friends. They’re both equally frightened of the terrorists, and Aftaab has to walk a tight-rope between his affection for his new friend, and showing loyalty towards the terrorists.
Sunny’s jail stay throws up several sweet-sour moments. He spends time watching kids play cricket from the window. He has arguments with the terrorist sitting outside on whether Sachin is the bigger batsman or Afridi. And an Indo-Pak cricket match truly brings out the rivalry between them.
Writer-director Nitin Kakkar suggests that in this strife-ridden world full of boundaries, it is the medium of film that can draw people together. And the biggest symbol is in Aftaab’s character who earns his living from films across the border.
After all, art has always known to transcend borders, and film is one of the most accessible art forms. Bollywood is known to be hugely popular in Pakistan, and it’s a thread that binds both countries beautifully. The similar taste in films also exposes the fact that the two countries are more culturally similar than they believe.
Kakkar’s storytelling is sure-footed and simple. He uses humour masterfully to liven up a film that speaks about denser issues. There are emotional scenes like the terrorist opening up about his memories of India before partition and Sunny talking about his grandfather’s wish to visit Lahore. There is palpable pain on both sides.
The only jarring aspect is the finale, and one wonders why Kakkar didn’t choose an end more in tune with the optimistic film.
Sharib Hashmi is an actor to look out for, and is equally astute as the film’s dialogue writer, having penned some gloriously memorable lines. The character of Sunny is not as simple as it appears; he’s incredibly sharp under the consistently smiling face. Hashmi is simply masterful and makes the portrayal look effortless. Inaamulhaq matches step with an incredibly earnest and heartfelt performance. Kumud Mishra and Gopal Datt playing the terrorists deserve special mention for their superlative act. It’s a dream cast, really!
The film is also impressive technically, from Hashmi’s dialogue, Kakkar’s screenplay, Subhransu Das’s cinematography and uncluttered editing by Shachindra Vats.
Do not miss this National Award-winning tragicomedy. Such cinematic gems, both entertaining and poignant, come by rarely!
Rating: Four stars