No Smoking: An Unconventional Movie
A movie reviewer wrote that cinema is all about 3E’s: entertainment, education and enlightenment. But it neednt really be, right? Let’s talk about this movie No Smoking. This definitely wasn’t a movie I wanted to see despite being someone who really thinks John is a sensational actor. Right from his first movie, I was one of those movie buffs who strongly predicted that he has far to go because his potential was definitely unexploited. Through every movie, John chiseled his body of work but Anurag Kashyap’s No Smoking beats everything else. So let’s go to the heart of the story.
There were just about five or six people in the theatre for this movie. No one looked remotely interested at the beginning. There was no sense of expectation in the air. It was like a bunch of sad people opting for the saddest movie in town.
But when the movie began, I was transported to another world that had nothing to do with reality yet smacked of it too. The movie was basically about K, (sexy John Abraham) who can’t stop admiring his bare chested body in the bathroom mirror. He smokes and admires, smokes and admires…till his wife, Ayesha Takia reminds him to stop smoking from outside. The macho guy tells his wife, “No body tells me what to do.”
Though highly successful K loves his wife, he is trapped in a dream that starts in Siberia where he dies a bloody death because of his obsession to grab a cigarette. The dream is so real to K that he doesn’t understand it at all. Nor does his wife who shares her secret with rest of the world that she wants to divorce her husband K who is totally addicted to smoking. But when she actually leaves K, he goes beserk and promises to visit “Prayogshala” that is a rehabilitation center for smokers who enjoy smoking. Two close friends who had been die hard smokers had recommended this to K who vows to try it out and his wife promises to get back home.
With somber light effects, minimalist feel and strange music, the movie brings a dark world to life. The truths that we long to suppress come back to us through dreams that are so much entwined with reality. In the life of K, his worst nightmares become true in real life when he attempts to stop smoking, perhaps these may be manifestations of a delirious mind but perhaps it isnt, it is the viewer’s understanding that makes the move rather than the director telling us the tale directly.
In the film, K’s wife Anjali — nicely played by excessively busty looking Ayesha Takia, who also does a double-role as his breathless, clumsy, secretary Annie — brings tiny twists into the complex plot. But it is Paresh Rawal who steals the show. Donning the role of cash crazy, ruthlessly cruel Guru Baba Bengali, the all knowing, omnipresent influence that takes over K’s life, Paresh Rawal makes us forget all the comedies that he had done through Priyadarsan’s comedy flicks. The ‘suffer in hell” kind of concepts which one associated with obsessive cult, religion and Hitler become borderline-metaphorical punishments that K becomes subject to. There is no fun in this but you feel shivers around your spine that is hard to ignore.
However, it is disputable whether John Abraham as an actor enhanced the movie plot because his dialogues were minimal, his body loomed over everything else as did wisps of never ending smoke. The main technique of the director was to engage us with dark, disturbing images, with strangeness of sound and overall execution that makes it so unreal and yet so real. The climax is almost frightening and reminds us of the shower sequences in the striking movie, Schindler’s List.
To me, it seemed that the movie focussed on the ego-body clash with the soul identity. The ego of the body is separate from the soul that has a personality of its own, an omnipresent awareness of what might happen tomorrow but this awareness that is latent in everyone gets suppressed when the ego-body reigns supreme. This duality that is present as a conflict in man’s mind has been superbly portrayed in the movie.
This isnt the movie that can merit a conventional kind of film review or rating because there is no comedy, no masala, no candyfloss dialogues or opulent sets that intoxicate the ordinary filmgoer. This movie is meant for the serious lovers of cinema that can be both dark and light at the same time just as in real life.