Confession no. 1: Nothing thrills this reviewer more than an out and out Mumbai-bhaigiri-underworld-saga! Been hooked to filmi tales of blood and gore on the streets of Mumbai since Mani Ratnam's Nayakan . Subsequent films dealing with similar themes like Takshak (Govind Nihalani) and Satya (Ram Gopal Varma) were lapped up with the same glee.
Confession no. 2: I forgot to hang my expectations at the door and went in expecting a masterpiece.
Ram Gopal Varma's 'Company' is a film worth watching, for its superior production value, great ensemble acting and some taut visuals. Rumored, to be based loosely on real life characters, underworld dons, Dawood Ibrahim and Chhotta Rajan, Company tells a sordid tale of crime, grime and pay-offs in the Mumbai underworld. Makarand Deshpande's voiceover chronicle in the background adds to the documentary feel.
At the core of the film is the camaraderie between Malik (Ajay Devgan) and his protege Chandu (Vivek Oberoi). Varma has projected the fiery interplay of egos, which transforms the relationship of the protagonists Malik and Chandu from trust and friendship to one of distrust and fight to the death over gangland supremacy. Fuelled by misunderstanding and miscommunication, their friendship soon changes to enmity with dire consequences.
The director gives the viewer a glimpse into the inner workings of the nefarious Mumbai underworld and its connections to the film world, media and the police force.
Ajay Devgun turns in an impeccably restrained performance as Malik, the cool and calculating crime boss. Vivek Oberoi, son of Suresh Oberoi makes an impressive debut as the hot headed young petty criminal befriended and mentored by Malik. Manisha Koirala and Antara Mali as the molls deserve a hearty pat on the backs for realistic portrayals as does a brilliant Seema Biswas in her role as Chandu's mother. She rails at her son one minute, rebuking and pinching him for coming home late and the very next minute simpering and apologetic while greeting important guests to her abode.
The only disappointment for this reviewer was Mohan Lal's Srinivasan, the police chief who seems to do nothing but mouth Hindi dialogues with a distinct Malayalee accent. The accent bit is charming but the script itself is totally out of place, with Mohan Lal employing an idiom that is completely incongruous with the thick accent. Mohan Lal is one of the finest actors in the business and it was a tad disconcerting to see him work with a flawed script. He does impart a quiet dignity to the police uniform, so defiled by the usual stereotypical portrayals in Hindi films. Depicted as an IPS officer credited with the arrest and surrender of many a criminal, there is scant evidence of his policing techniques from the dealings pictured for the benefit of viewers.
Credit is owed to newcomer cinematographer, Hemant Chaturvedi , who shot the film in four countries using three different crews. This apparently included the Chinese crew from Jackie Chan's Rush Hour 2.
Sandeep Chowta's music is pleasing, Khallas, a huge hit in India is the only song shown in its entirety apart from the song Urmila gyrates to as the titles roll. Sub Ganda hai par Dhandha hai yeh repeated through the film loses its appeal after the first three or so renderings and begins to grate on one's nerves. The other song snippets are all worth a listen.
That said, 'Company' fails to deliver the visceral punch that 'Satya', Varma's earlier work did.
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