Qaidi Band star cast: Aadar Jain, Anya Singh, Sachin Pigaonkar, Prince Parvinder Singh, Peter Muxxa Manuel, Mikahi Yawalkar, Anna Ador, Cyndy Khojol, Ram Kapoor
Qaidi Band director: Habib Faisal
Qaidi Band rating: One and a half stars
That undertrials in Indian jails can live in limbo, swinging between hope and despair for a long, long time is a good, solid subject for a film. And when the film begins, with the mention of Machang Lalung who spent 54 years—most of a man’s life– in prison, you hope for something that will do justice for people in search for just that—justice.
A bunch of young and young-ish undertrials come together to form a band, and what begins as something that starts under duress, turns into a song for their ‘azaadi’. Sanju (Jain), Bindu (Anya), Tatyana (Ador, seen before this in Gurgaon), Musky (Parvinder), Ogu (Manuel), Rufi (Yawalkar) and Sange (Khojol) is the rag-tag gang, and the inclusion of a Black man, and a girl from the North East allows the film to make important points about racism and discrimination, even in a place where the entire populace is discriminated against.
The actors all do their job, but the film is so careful to be prison lite that nothing seems real: even the dust of the prison grounds is air-brushed. Anything which could have revealed the horrific degree of physical abuse is cut short: the place is run by a jailer (Sachin : good to see him back in Hindi cinema) who kow-tows to authority.
The plot’s insistence on taking pot-shots at the usual suspects (politicians and the police and the ‘system’) makes it preachy. And the way the rock-band arena is used to solve a climactic problem is far from credible.
More realism would have made this a film we could have believed in. But we do take away the young faces with us, especially Anya Singh whose bright-eyed earnestness is wholly convincing. She is a real find.