Rakesh's movie talk
Mumbai Xpress (2005)

Home | Movie Reviews | Movie talk | Film Personalities | Misc Articles | Contact Me | Tamil Time

Directed by Singeetham Sreenivasa Rao
Written by Kamal Hassan
Starring Kamal Hassan, Nassar, Pasupathi, Vaiyapuri, Manisha Koirala and Santhana Barathi.


Mumbai Xpress



These days I see many films that aim to achieve greatness, and fall badly onto the ground with a silent thud. But I digress. I am going to write about a Tamil film and I view so precious few of the (new) outputs. Exceptions, of course, are given to Rajini and Kamal Haasan films (and Sathyaraj to a certain degree) because these two guys are people I grew up with and I am madly in love with their talents (alongside my family and these two stars have become part of it).


Yes, Kamal’s latest offering, Mumbai Xpress, comes this close to greatness. The last time a comedy film attained the classic status was back in 1990. The movie was called Michael Mathana Kamarajan  and not many appreciated it at the time of its release. I believe the same is happening now to Mumbai Xpress, though it is enjoying glowing reviews from critics all over the world.


Comparison to Michael is inevitable. The film starred Kamal, Nagesh, Nassar, Santhana Barathi, Kushbu, and many other wonderful actors. The screenplay was Kamal’s and his constant co-writer Crazy Mohan supplied the dialogues. Sangeetham Sreenivasan, who directed the other greatness called Apoorva Saghotharargal helped to direct it (yes, helped) and the result was a gem, right up there with the other classic comedies like Adutha Veetu Penn, Kathalikka Neeramillai and Bale Pandiya. Though Kamal played the four title roles here, he was basically a character actor in it. Hell, we all know that Kameswaran is the lead character in the movie – so much so that talk was bound about a sequel with Kameswaran in it.


Aside. Kamal was clearly inspired by the role when he wrote the script for Nalla Thamayanthi for Mathavan, aaaand, he coached the young star with the spectacular dialogue delivery, and with the role being so original Mathavan had no choice but to mimic Kamal. End of aside.


Got sidetracked there. Michael is basically a heist comedy with Tamil movie flavour. So is Mumbai Xpress. It’s a comedy of error; a screwball comedy with brilliant witty dialogues, occasional slapsticks, and most importantly, strong characterisation. Kamal took the entire writing chore in this movie, leaving Sreenivasan to err…help him again with direction. And Kamal the writer had probably written the most brilliant script in his life.


The story in nutshell: Kamal is a motorcycle stunt rider who gets involved in a plot to kidnap a rich man’s kid. Wrong kid gets kidnapped and he turns out to be the son of a high ranking police officer. Kamal’s character, Avinash @ Mumbai Xpress starts out thinking that he is doing it for a cause, but later realises the actual criminal intent behind the whole scheme and bails out - taking the kid and returning him to his mother, played by Monisha Koirala. In the centre of it all is loads of money, the ransom paid for various reasons.


One of the most interesting thing about this film is the characterisation. They are very, very three dimensional – and mostly morally bankrupt. Everyone is dead serious with his or her motivation. It’s comedy, but nobody is playing it for laugh. They are all convinced with what they are doing and it’s the situation that deals with them has us audience howling in laughter. There may be trace of Crazy Mohan here and there, but Kamal was careful not to let the dialogues get silly and redundant.


And yes, there is no hero in this movie, at least in moral sense. Everyone is out for the money. The kidnappers do it purely for greed reason. The cop has reputation to protect and throws money out for it. Manisha is a mistress who has to juggle her emotion between acknowledging her social standing and monetary needs. There is no single Tamil movie stereotypes in this movie.


There are many setpieces that we will be talking about the days to come. Which ones? The planning of the kidnapping, the kidnapping scene itself, the misunderstanding of Kamal as an undercover cop, so on, so forth. The last quarter of the film is rich, very, very rich. You have to see it again and again I tell you.


Performances are brilliant all around. Pasupathi, Vaiyapuri, Nassar, Santhana Barathi, Kovai Sarala and the guy who plays the Telugu insurance guy (Gad, its Ramesh Aravind, I discovered now), are all right on the dot. Manisha could have been good if not for a bad dubbing (or mouthing of Tamil words) and so would have been the boy (gotta get his name). And what a find this Pasupathi is. He shone in Virumandi, and here he almost outshone Kamal, especially in the first half where Kamal was just one of the supporting guys. 


Ilayaraja’s music recalls the brilliant background score he did for Kamal’s work in the late eighties and early nineties. There is a song or two, but they are mostly in the background and they are best that way. This movie got no room for musical, and Ilayaraja knows that very well.


Alas, I am sad to report the flaws of Mumbai Xpress. The digital filmmaking. I am not sure what format Lucas used for his Star Wars Episode II and III, but it is definitely not the format Kamal used here. This digital video looks bad. Very cheap. Maybe its Kamal’s intention for it to have a kind of documentary feel to it, but it just does not work. It simply managed to give it a kind of dull feeling. If you are not paying attention to the acting and the dialogues, you are certain to fall asleep. Too bad, it ruined some of the beautiful shots.


Somehow, I suspect that nobody bothered to view the scenes blown up in a theatre screen throughout the pre and post production. It’s a mistake, Kamal. Don’t do it again. You just blown the chance of seeing another classic at these times of creative draught. I hope this film will view well on DVD, so that people can really enjoy it in its actual digital environment.


And what the hell was the ending all about. Can anyone enlighten me with that?