Movie review: Sankat City

Sankat City is Mumbai,maximum city filtered and distilled via its minimum people.

Written by Shubhra Gupta | Published: July 11, 2009 2:27:09 am

CAST: Kay Kay Menon,Rimi Sen,Anupam Kher,Manoj Pahwa,Yashpal Sharma,Chunky Pandey,Sri Vallabh Vyas,Dilip Prabhavalkar,Hemant Pandey,Veerendra Saxena;

DIRECTOR: Pankaj Advani

Sankat City is Mumbai,maximum city filtered and distilled via its minimum people. In one of the sharpest scenes from Pankaj Advani’s zippy,kooky comedy,a tattered king of the landfills points to mountains of rubbish heaps — that one is Goregaon,and that is Versova. And then a tractor runs over a money-filled tote,spilling thousand rupee notes into the noxious air — the smell of money mixes with the smell of garbage. That is Mumbai’s smell,and spirit,and the director nails it.

It’s tempting to compare Advani’s first released film (his brilliant debut feature Urf Professor is still sadly languishing unseen; several of the actors in that one are present here) with Jaane Bhi Do Yaaron,Kundan Shah’s towering black comedy that redefined the genre: there’s a corrupt builder here too,and all sorts of other dodgy types. Sankat City stands on its own,even if it reminds you of Ek Chalis Ki Last Local and Johnny Gaddar: its characters are people on the margins,all scrambling to survive,and a vein of gleeful amorality runs through it.

Guru (Kay Kay) steals cars. Ganpat (Dilip Prabhavalkar) re-models them. Sharafat (Shri Vallabh Vyas) sells them. Mona (Rimi) is a girl on the make. Sikandar Khan (Chunky) is an actor who says “Inshaallah” (do we know anybody like that?) and looks at himself in the mirror a lot.

The one that binds them all is mobster-cum-money lender Faujdar (Anupam Kher) who fills his atmospheric villain’s den with a muscle-bound bodyguard,a boy-lovin’ saffron-’dhari’ religious guru (Veerendra Saxena),a cowed-down driver (Hemant Pandey),a going-for-broke producer (Manoj Pahwa),a lusty businessman who goes by the name of Gogi Kuckreja (Yashpal) and a contract killer called Suleman Supari (Rahul Dev). This parade of pariahs crisscrosses paths and wits over a few days,and delivers unto us a film that is laugh-out-loud funny.

Only in a couple of patches does the pace flatten. But the rest is rapidfire action. Advani and his cast are clearly having a blast — keep an eye and ear out for Bollywood jokes,nods to the retro badmovie classics of the 80s. Rimi,the Bangla-spewing vixen with a softer side,is a revelation. And Anupam,channeling his Shimla roots,is absolutely first rate. Everyone else is very good too,except a curiously inert Chunky.

The smartest thing about the film is that it manages to get the tone just right — not too low-brow,nor too arty. Sankat City is a caper with brains,a rare combo. Grab it.

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