99 - 2009


The very thought of going to the cinemas gives you a high. The past five Fridays have been very unsettling, witnessing a few inconsequential releases, with the viewer looking everywhere but at the theatres. The practice of going back to a dark auditorium, the aroma of popcorn and samosas, comes to an end with 99, which opens at plexes and single screens, both.

99, helmed by Raj Nidimoru [Raj] and Krishna D.K. [D.K.], is a good looking film with some smart moments thrown in, towards the second hour mainly. In fact, it takes time to grasp things, the characters, the plotline. Besides, Raj and D.K. take their own sweet time to establish the characters, set things up and come to the point.

99 actually takes off in the second hour. From the time the lights are dimmed [post interval] to the time the lights are lit again [conclusion of the film], 99 keeps you engrossed in most parts.

The only problem is, it's too slow-paced at times and lengthy too, towards the penultimate moments. Just when you thought that the film has ended, another chase follows, which eventually leads to the finale.

Final word? 99 is smart, good looking and interesting, in parts. Quite a ride this, if you don't go with much expectations!

99 is set in 1999. It's about two crooks [Kunal Khemu, Cyrus Broacha], who run the illegal SIM card duplicating business and who get embroiled in a major mess when they rob a car and worse, meet with an accident. The car belongs to a bookie/gangster [Mahesh Manjrekar], who asks them to reimburse the amount.

What follows is a big chase, from the streets of Mumbai to Delhi, with a number of characters now entering the story.

99 isn't Raj and D.K.'s debut film, but it's their debut film in Bollywood for sure. The best part is, the director duo come up with fresh ideas to make it look different. For instance, the characters that you watch in 99 have been witnessed a zillion times before, but the small-time crooks [Kunal, Cyrus], bookie/gangster [Mahesh Manjrekar], match fixer [Vinod Khanna], habitual gambler [Boman], his cheerless wife [Simone Singh], slimy bookie/recovery agent [Amit Mistry], an over-the-top Bhojpuri film actor and the hotel manager [Soha] appear so different. They're definitely not caricatures. Even otherwise, the approach to the story [Raj, D.K., Sita Menon] and the execution of the subject is a notch above the ordinary.

Notwithstanding the plusses, Raj and D.K. ought to know, being avid movie buffs themselves, making the viewer impatient isn't a positive sign. The film is sooooo slow [intermittently boring too] at times that it tests your patience. The film vacillates constantly, from energetic moments to tepid/boring stuff. Also, ideally, the film should've had a running time of 90 minutes [99 minutes, if the makers preferred], not 2 + hours.

There's not much scope for music in the film and the song-pieces are well integrated in the plot. Rajeev Ravi's cinematography is eye-catching. Dialogues are well penned. Special mention must be made of the beginning titles, which are innovative. Cheragh Todiwala's editing is perfect in several scenes [sample these sequences: Kunal enters Vinod Khanna's suite in the hotel or the chase at Palika Bazaar towards the climax - well filmed, well edited sequences], but loose at times too.

99 is embellished with fine performances from an ensemble cast, but the one who stands out is Boman Irani. Here's a master stroke from this accomplished actor, yet again. Kunal Khemu is only getting better and more confident. The new look [hairstyle] suits him well. Soha is evolving into a fine actress. She's highly competent this time. Cyrus Broacha is, expectedly, funny and controlled. Film-makers have one more alternative while casting now.

Vinod Khanna is wonderfully relaxed, so is Mahesh Manjrekar. Simone Singh does well. Amit Mistry is exceptional. Here's a talent that needs to be lapped up!

On the whole, 99 appeals in parts, more towards the second half. The film holds appeal for the youth and should find patronage from this faction of moviegoers at multiplexes mainly.

Cast & Crew

Krishna DK, Raj Nidimoru
Aditya Shastri, Anupam Mittal
Ashu, Roshan Machado, Shamir Tandon, Mahesh Shankar
Vaibhav Modim, Amitabh Bhattacharyam, Shabbir Ahmed, Chintan Gandhi

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