December 10, 2009

a quick review + recommendation

Kaminey (2009)

The entire film is a lunacy!, a la Tarantino and Monty Python, and I dig that even more because the director/scriptwriter/music director Vishal Bhardwaj had gained not a little acclaim for his two previous movies, Maqbool and Omkara, which were adaptations of Shakespeare's Macbeth and Othello – very serious! But this film revels in its black/absurdist aesthetic. And it takes on politics through its crazy desperate logic too – especially the anti-migrant rhetoric in Maharashtra and the rhetoric of “Marathi pride”. Also note the homoerotic friendship between Charlie and Mikhail, and the song promoting condom use!

I streamed Kaminey on Netflix a few days ago (and noticed that the English subtitles seemed to be attuned to much of what was going on in the dialogues. Which is important for non-Hindi speaking viewers because) the dialogues are peppered with wordplay (at one point, Charlie’s character puns between “kokh”, which is “womb” in Hindi, and “coke” i.e. cocaine!) and take much pleasure in both speech and impedimented speech. The two lead characters, Guddu and Charlie, are twins – one of them stutters, the other lisps. Both these speech disorders give rise to some hilarious – and uncomfortably hilarious – situations in the film. Charlie cannot produce the /s/ sound and substitutes it with the /f/ sound. For instance, “fortcut” instead of “shortcut”. But it seems as though instead of deterring him from using words with the /s/ phoneme, his dis-ability fuels him to disrupt "normal" speech to the maximum by using such words excessively. I love this excess.

The film also swarms with other languages – Bengali and Marathi are just two instances – and in this sense challenges conventional wisdom that the body of a Bollywood movie must speak in a unified/unifying tongue i.e. Hindi (or Hinglish), leaving regional movies to speak the “minor” languages. Bombay is a heterolingual and poly-ethnic city. One of the bad guys in the movie is a polyglot.

And the brilliant montage sequence during the climax. Oh, and the “Dhan Te Naan” riff which samples the hackneyed background theme music of action sequences from the 1970s and 80s! Delightful. B. Rangan called Kaminey a “minor movie” and felt that Bhardwaj was at times "attempting to inflate this minor material into a major movie." I cannot disagree more. Such rascals are major in their very minor-ness.


  1. The movie could not be seen for a while after it's release in Bombay and parts of Maharashtra because all theatres were shut down due to Swine Flu.
    I watched it very late but loved it. I think it is a bold movie... and I am surprised nobody asked the director, "Kaminay kisko bola re tu?"

  2. I read somewhere that Bhardwaj thinks "kamina" is not a word of abuse at all. He thinks it is used to establish intimacy! So you might call your friends "kaminey" - endearingly - when they do something that annoys you.