"ALLAH KE BANDAY pays homage to all the kids exposed to offense, misdeeds and crime," debutant director Faruk Kabir announced to me when he screened for me the first promo of his film. In times when senseless comedies, rom-coms and thrillers are being lapped up at the box-office, here comes a director telling a realistic story of a bunch of bad young men taking up guns when they are preordained to take up education, taking up abhorrence when they are meant to take up love. The consequences are drastic, with these kids turning into negative forces, taking up crime as their mission as grownups as well.
Now this is a parable most directors would fear to make in their debut film, but Faruk seems on a mission to make ALLAH KE BANDAY watchable not only for its genre. The question is, does his statement that ALLAH KE BANDAY isn't a film about crime, but our society in general come across effectively? Does ALLAH KE BANDAY have the power to magnetize the viewers all across or does it cater to a miniscule audience? Let's analyze...
The Indian social order is evolving and so is Indian cinema. More and more directors are coming up with fresher ideas to tell tales that highlight and also influence changes in the fabric of our society. Faruk Kabir also seems like a youngster brimming with ideas, having a lot to tell in his own individualistic style. However, ALLAH KE BANDAY is not without its share of flaws. The screenplay vacillates between interesting and not-too-exciting moments.
Yet, all said and done, it's an honest attempt, a notch above the ordinary!
ALLAH KE BANDAY is a film that spans the life of two twelve-year-old boys living in one of the most ruthless slums of Mumbai. From delivering drugs for the Mafia to looting people with their transvestite friend, the two aspire to assert their position in this world of crime. But when they are wrongly convicted for a murder and sent to the Juvenile Reformatory, they discover a world more chaotic and tough to survive in, than the one they left behind.
The senior inmates, with the participation and permission of the dreadful Juvenile warden [Naseeruddin Shah], subject the two friends to all kinds of torture to suppress their sense of power. But not the ones to take it lying down, they start developing a more sinister criminal psychosis, instead of reforming and set on a quest for ultimate power. Set free at twenty three, Vijay [Sharman Joshi] and Yakub [Faruk Kabir] form a gang of teenage boys to rule the slums they were born in. The vicious cycle of life continues.
Does ALLAH KE BANDAY take inspiration from a foreign source? Is it inspired by the gangster flick CIDADE DE DEUS aka CITY OF GOD , as being widely alleged? I would say that the source of inspiration seems more like SLEEPERS , which starred some of the best names in the business [Kevin Bacon, Robert De Niro, Dustin Hoffman, Brad Pitt]. But despite the similarities, I must add that ALLAH KE BANDAY is not only well shot, but makes an equally powerful impact. Besides choosing an offbeat subject for his debut film, Faruk has gone a step further and shot it at real locations too and that, very frankly, takes the film to a different level altogether. The film wouldn't have worked had the director erected sets of a reformatory or the slums where crime breeds.
On the flipside, the writing isn't convincing at times. Sharman and Faruk run the show from a dilapidated mansion-like structure in the basti, pushing school-going kids to the world of crime. This is done valiantly, without any fear of law enforcement agencies, which is difficult to absorb. Besides, ALLAH KE BANDAY is dark and like I pointed out earlier, it tries to be as close to reality as possible, in terms of the lingo spoken by the characters or the bloodshed depicted in the film and that could act as a deterrent. Also, the film stagnates in the middle of the second hour, partly because there's not much movement in the screenplay.
Faruk Kabir makes a powerful impact as a storyteller. His handling of a difficult subject deserves brownie points. The sequences in the reformatory are very well shot. Ditto for the sequence when Sharman encounters Naseeruddin Shah, who is now reduced to a life worse than a beggar. There's not much scope for music in the film, but I'd like to single out the background score, which complements the goings-on well. The cinematography is eye-catching. The real locations have been deftly captured on celluloid. Dialogue are power-packed at times.
With a talented cast like Naseeruddin Shah, Sharman Joshi, Atul Kulkarni and Zakir Hussain, you expect nothing but the best from each performer. Naseer has limited screen space, but he's dynamic every time he appears on screen. Sharman depicts the intensity very well. In fact, this is amongst his better works. Atul Kulkarni is wonderful, while Zakir Hussain is top notch. Faruk Kabir enacts a pivotal part himself and must say, he makes you sit and notice his talent as an actor. Anjana Sukhani doesn't get much scope, while Rukhsaar too gets less screen space. Suhasini Mulay is effective. The two kids, enacting Sharman and Faruk's parts, are excellent.
On the whole, ALLAH KE BANDAY is a gritty, stimulating and provocative cinematic experience with a flipside: Not many would prefer a dark film about kids taking to crime and felony. Its appeal, therefore, will remain restricted to a niche audience.
By Taran Adarsh