Saif brings his A-game to the fore
Here's one of my regrets in life (or maybe it's not a regret, since life's not over yet). I haven't tried LSD. Surely there's a right place and time for it. About the place, people will give you enough suggestions ("Out in the open, in the wilds; nature, my friend, nature!"). But if you don't experiment with substances when you're relatively young (college, ideally), by the time you hit late adulthood, so many people have already tried it, and discussed it ad-nauseam (a mix of horrific and inspiring tales) that you know this excessive self-awareness, overload of second-hand info, is going to screw up your trip anyway.
Saif's character in this film takes the perfect call -- standing in his balcony, just popping a red-coloured stamp, without quite worrying, or getting overtly excited about what it's going to do to him. You don't do LSD anyway, as the fellow next to him says. You take LSD. And it takes you on a trip, evidently. As does this film henceforth.
Just to let you in on Saif's character (no spoilers, it's only the first scene), he's been diagnosed with terminal illness, and is going to last only a few months. What kinda trip that news can put you on has several filmic versions -- Akira Kurosawa's Ikuru is my favourite; Vinay Pathak's Dasvidaniya was sort of its remake. Newfound respect for genuinely letting go, living it up, is obviously the unifying theme. That's true for Kaalakaandi too. But only so far as Saif is concerned.
Kaalakaandi, that I'm told is Marathi slang for ch*****pa (had never heard this word before), is about simultaneous screw-ups taking place over a few hours: drug bust at a bar, that involves a young, urbane couple (Sobhita Dhulipala, Kunal Roy Kapoor); two dehati hit-men (the brilliant Vijay Raaz, Deepak Dobriyal) negotiating their share in a loot that belongs to the Mob boss.
This is what you'd call a hyperlink film (several pictures running, that the filmmaker clicks on at will) -- something that became quite a thing after Alejandro Innaritu's Amores Perros, at the turn of the century. Okay, I'm just trying to sound intelligent.
This is basically a madcap ensemble pic with so much happening at every turn that it's as much fun following the plot as the people in front of you, responding to stuff, even observing the randoms in the background -- whether that be the casual glance from a bridal make-up woman, the Parsee Emraan Hashmi fan called Jehangir Jehangir, or wondering, are there PA system announcements in Mumbai international airport? Can you really get away with cops like that?
No. I mean, no, don't think too much. Simply look at Saif, who seems to be having a time of his after-life. Let alone his character, as an actor, for two and half decades in Bollywood, even within two distinct phases -- pre and post Dil Chahta Hai (2001) -- Saif has probably been around on screen often looking like, "WTF am I doing here (Tu Chor Main Sipahi type stuff)." And why aren't you able to see, "WTF I'm doing here, it's cool (Goa Goa Gone kinda material)." This film is the kind of space Saif naturally inhabits -- bringing to the fore his A-game as the most naturally goofy star ever!
That the producers (Rohit Khattar, Ashi Dua) have put their money where the movie explains how this space exists in the first place. Left to the censors thereafter (and the filmmakers fought a hard battle), this pic, with abusive language, about drug abusive, would have been reduced to a jpeg image, or a GIF file, at best.
It remains a lot like Delhi Belly instead, the (Akshat Verma) writer of which makes his directorial debut here. He's on the ball for sure. Is it as good as Delhi Belly? As a script? Possibly. As a film, I felt it lacks rhythm, with too much being force-fed to suit the timeline of one never-ending night in Bombay, even if that's the genre. The end might make you go, "Eh?" But through it all, you're more likely to go, "Hah!" So nah, I'm not complaining at all.