SAN JOSE, California (Hollywood Reporter) - It’s not every day that one sees a Bollywood hero dancing in the streets dressed as a giant red condom. With the reckless, urban crime thriller “Kaminey,” director-writer Vishal Bhardwaj -- who earned accolades with “Omkara” and “Maqbool” -- is challenging mainstream Indian audiences to accept his left-of-center sensibilities.
The film, which opened Friday (August 14), is likely to enrapture critics, but despite powerful performances by two of India’s top stars, former Miss World Priyanka Chopra and musclebound Shahid Kapur, its hollow emotional core may render it unable to pull in huge box office numbers.
Guddu (Kapur) and his lover, Sweety (Chopra), are part of a new wave of NGO activists who use street theater to spread AIDS awareness while handing out condoms. So when Sweety becomes pregnant, the irony is not lost on Guddu.
But that’s only the start of their troubles. Guddu’s estranged twin brother, Charlie (Kapur again), is a smart but rough-around-the-edges bookie with grand dreams of ill-gotten millions. A failed drug deal and a case of mistaken identity throw the two brothers together, and they find themselves fighting not just the Mumbai mafia but also the demons in their past.
Bhardwaj’s “Omkara” and “Maqbool” were modernized adaptations of Shakespeare’s Othello and Macbeth that wowed critics and festival audiences with their smart dialogue, dynamic music (Bhardwaj composed the soundtracks) and searing emotional punch. “Kaminey” shares the cleverness, dark politics and blazing visual sense of those two films -- witness a blistering chase sequence through the hallways, suites and kitchen of a five-star Mumbai hotel, and a speeding car ride through monsoon-drenched streets.
Bhardwaj extracts memorable performances from his cast, most notably Kapur, who plays Guddu smooth-faced and sensitive, and Charlie with a darkly shadowed sense of menace.
So what if it’s not Shakespeare -- “Kaminey” is a unique thrill ride all its own.