Kaamyaab movie review: The ensemble cast is well-assembled.
Kaamyaab movie cast: Sanjay Mishra, Deepak Dobriyal, Isha Talvar, Avtar Gill
Kaamyaab movie director: Hardik Mehta
Kaamyaab movie rating: 3.5 stars
A realistic hardscrabble story of a character actor runs the risk of turning either too dull, or too exaggerated. Hardik Mehta skates the thin line between drama and drabness so adroitly that the film feels both enervated and energised at the same time.
Kaamyaab is a moving, consistently engaging portrait of an artist as a weathering, weathered man. And Sanjay Mishra is faultless as the lead character — always the bridesmaid, never the bride; an insider but always on the outside.
When we first come upon Sudheer (Mishra), he is being interviewed. From the way the interviewer tries to talk up her subject, for herself and her crew, we know that the person in front of her, once a popular ’side’ actor, now on the downslide of middle age, is just an assignment.
After a revival of sorts, Sudheer finds himself back on a movie set, but not until he has discovered just how far the world has changed from the time he and his compatriots played the stock characters of the Hindi cinema of the 70s and 80s—the cop who always arrives late, the bellowing bad guy who has his wicked way with the side actress, the lawyer who says mi’lord, the doctor who says, badhai ho, ladka hua hai, and so on, each assigned a dialogue or two, as stock as the character.
One of the sharpest sequences involves Sudheer fumbling his lines, in take after unsuccessful take. The hero’s disdain, the production person’s active hostility, the assistants bristling with their walkie- talkies and impatient instructions, the old-time sympathetic make-up artist: this could have turned into melodrama, but it’s all low-key, just the right tone to make us see those small humiliations which hurt more than a big showdown.
The ensemble cast is well assembled. A scene which has many familiar, forgotten faces suddenly take you back to the movies when the hero’s entry was the most important thing about the film. Deepak Dobriyal as a self-important casting agent, is as always, spot on. Avtar Gill plays an actor called Avtar Gill, and it’s all very meta: is the version of Gill we see on screen as insecure and annoying as Gill who is playing him? Mishra’s playing of Sudheer is balancing act too: himself a long-time ‘character’ actor who has only occasionally played the lead (with spectacular results in Aankhon Dekhi), and who will, for all his success, never be A-list.
A pretty young woman (Talvar), playing the classic struggler, calls Bombay a terrible city which only hands out rejection, and flits off ‘for a break’. That immediately grounds the film: there is life elsewhere too. As does Sudheer’s growing interaction with his own family, a daughter with a husband and their little girl, which starts spiky but becomes filled with an awareness that this is where he belongs.
There are a few false steps, and some overstating the case. But the film succeeds in differentiating between the real and real: it can be really hard to choose between a head of thinning grey hair and an awful jet-black toupee, if that choice leads back to the spotlight. To play second-rung well, you have to be first-rate, and Mishra, who has been single-note and loud in many performances, has pulled it off here. Where does real success lie? Being a good person, available emotionally to the people closest to you: that the film manages to give us this insight without getting preachy is its real kaamyaabi, both heart-warming, and heart-breaking.