Starring: Rahul Bhat, Sunny Leone, Jennifer Piccinato, Shrikant Yadav, Abhilash Thapliyal, Mohit Takalkar, Megha Burman, Kurush Deboo
Director: Anurag Kashyap
This critically acclaimed film has been doing the film festival rounds and arrived in the UK for the just-concluded London Indian Film Festival (LIFF). As is expected from an Anurag Kashyap film, it takes audiences through some gritty storytelling in his distinctive style and at his own pace.
Uday Shetty a.k.a. Kennedy (Bhat) is a killer cop who is spirited away by his boss Rasheed Khan (Takalkar) to create a personal on-call hitman once he is presumed dead on the Mumbai police payroll. Kennedy fully inhabits this homicidal persona as he is consumed by his obsession to trace the culprit behind the killing of a loved one, whose whereabouts Khan dangles as a bait to keep his hitman in line.
But Khan ends up creating his own monster in Kennedy, who soon begins to relish disposing off his victims and snatching a little keepsake from each killing. Insomnia is a visible sign of his deteriorating mental health, which is in freefall even as the world around him is undergoing its own trauma with the Covid lockdown. From a handy stooge for Khan on his path to promotion up the police ranks, Kennedy soon begins to display disturbing signs of mania.
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As he encounters Charlie (Leone), an alcoholic gangster’s moll with some very odd habits of her own, Kennedy’s paranoia seems to be hurtling towards self-destruction. Haunted by the ghosts of some of those he has killed and nightmares of a car bomb claiming the life of a little boy, Kennedy is clearly a man on the verge of a nervous breakdown. Will he succumb to this self-destruction or will many more victims have to die before then?
As is expected from an Anurag Kashyap film, this is quite the ride through the very depths of human emotions and distress. The leisurely pace of storytelling means we can feel the sheer intensity of the protagonist lose his mind bit by bit. Based on a real-life cop known to have been behind several “encounter killings” in 1980s Mumbai, Bhat does full justice to the challenging role of an insomniac killer cop. Sunny Leone as the nervously laughing gangster’s moll is less convincing but on the whole the actors inhabit their characters well to deliver a punchy thriller.
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It is no wonder the film and its director have had standing ovations across the film festival circuit. But this is by no means an easy watch, but then life under lockdown was anything but easy.