“Likh rahe ho ya kaam kar rahe ho?” says a woman’s derogatory voice on the phone.
The young, meek, half sleepy man on the other end, is trying to relieve himself. The attempt is successful in spurts, depending on how the early morning conversation goes.
It ends with him getting dumped. After all, Dulal (Naveen Kasturia) is a good for nothing boyfriend
This scene in Sulemani Keeda,(means ‘pain in the ass’) sets an urban, casual tone of the film which has travelled across a few film festivals before getting a theatrical release.
Dulal and his friend, Mainak (Mayank Tewari) are struggling film writers who go around knocking filmmakers’ doors, peddling their script titled ‘Sulemani Keeda’. Predictably, they get lectures on life philosophy from Mahesh Bhatt and can’t get past the gatekeepers at Yashraj (“unke bhai Uday chopra se mila do”…they still try) and if they get lucky, they get a polite reply from actress, Amrita Rao (she is better when she plays herself).
When the duo are not struggling, they are trying to get laid. Book shops are a regular haunt. And that doesn’t help much when Mainak happens to pick up a book on erectile dysfunction.
Things turn hopeful when the duo meet a B grade film producer’s 35 year old son, Gonzo Kapoor (Karan Mirchandani, excellent) hoping to be launched in a film that has shades of “Tarkovsky with orgies”. A visit to his dad’s farmhouse follows. The idea is to think “out of the box”. Gonzo wants a “story without a story”.
How Gonzo does get exactly that, is worth waiting for. The eventual outcome (hint: hero is called Bulbul Chingam) is a telling comment on the current state of Indian cinema.
While the central plot is sketchy and predictable, the film relies heavily on the characters and the hilarious dialogues. Mainak who looks the part (played to perfection by Mayank Tewari, also a writer himself) is the hustler willing to fit himself in any part of “the box”. His efforts to be funny and charm women, are a perfect counterfoil to the more sincere and poetic Dulal who doesn’t mind doing headstands to impress a sweet photographer, Ruma (Aditi Vasudev of Do Dooni Chaar). Dulal is someone you meet all the time. Dreamy and sometimes delusional when in love, he thrives on words but is as lost in life, as any wannabe writer. All four actors-Naveen, Mayank, Aditi and Karan are extremely well cast and lift the film several notches up with their natural and spontaneous acting.
The story reminds one of yesteryear’s Adhaarshila (1982) starring Naseeruddin Shah, in its realistic portrayal, casting and the use of low budget locations. Adhaarshila too revolved around struggling filmmakers and their real world filled with reel dreams.
Debut writer and director, Amit Masurkar displays potential and courage in exploring a subject that’s non commercial by nature. In his own words, this is a ‘Versova Indie’, which pretty much nails and limits its scope in format and reach.
Sulemani Keeda is a riot in parts; great in one-liners, but a letdown in plot. Bollywood insiders may relate and derive plenty of redemptive pleasure. As for the rest, watch for its earnest and refreshing attempt.