That Girl In Yellow Boots traces Ruth’s (Kalki Koechlin) search for her father – a man she hardly knew but cannot forget. Desperation drives her to work without a permit, at a massage parlour. Torn between several schisms, Mumbai becomes the alien but yet strangely familiar backdrop for Ruth’s quest. She struggles to find her independence and space even as she is sucked deeper into the labyrinthine politics of the city’s underbelly – a city that feeds on her misery, a love that eludes her and above all, a devastating truth that she must encounter…
There comes a time in every director’s life where he decides to do something outrageous, something courageous and insanely unique. It could be good or bad, but it’s different. That time came and went with No Smoking for Anurag Kashyap. That Girl in Yellow Boots, his latest effort, which looks more like his first effort (which is not a bad thing at all), is standard Kashyap fare, with the regular chills and shock-inducing moments that make other filmmakers look a bit pale in comparison. Why, you ask? Simply, because this is not even his best piece of work so far- far from it, actually but he still manages to somewaht hit home in a genre that he seems to have single handedly taken upon himself to resurrect. Whether it needs any more resurrection or not, is another matter. The name of the genre is… well, it doesn’t matter. Let’s call it ‘the brutal truths of life – reloaded’.
Based within the slimy confines of massage parlours and seedy flats, and shot in 13 days and nights (quite a feat – being an indie film made on borrowed money), Kashyap has clearly relied far more on his familiar actor-party than on his own technical wizardry. For once. Average shots last for more than a minute at a time, and the actors have had to put all their theatre experience into play here. I, for one, have no problem if the camera is completely static for minutes on end. The long takes are completely justified if they fit in the general scheme of things. Schmoozy razamattaz cross-cutting and shot-taking does not impress often, unless it is a character’s specific state of mind. But what if entire sub-plots and parallel stories do not fit? Do you insert them anyway, hoping to get away with the acting prowess on show (like every second European film does) OR do you be stern with yourself and take out those dreaded choppies? The filmmakers (director and writer, husband and wife, director and actor, er…) may have just gotten carried away with the material at hand. If provoking and shocking the audience is the eventual goal, they have succeeded within the first 20 seconds of every scene but what happens for the next 1.5 minutes is a mystery, and Kashyap may have just not felt like yelling, ‘CUT’. The climax is an important example, It could have ended minutes ago when the (expected) revelation was made in true shock-therapy fashion. But he let it sink in. He let us think about it. He let us feel about it. Which, in turn, took away from it. He may have just wanted it to flow, and could have even been enchanted by veteran artists in great form, giving their all for a film that possibly defines their individual legacies.
Watching and observing the intricacies of every scene, whether it is Ruth’s expression when she asks her clients if they want a ‘pump’ or if it is Naseeruddin Shah genuinely enjoying his regular foot massages is all well and good. We have come to expect no less from Kashyap, but did he really need to include an entire truckload of shady characters just for the sake of the genre he is so proficient at? Authentic or not, dramatized or not, self-indulgent or not. it doesn’t matter if it is compelling, gritty cinema that makes us squirm in right doses. Gulaal did it, and so did Black Friday big time. TGIYB falls short, even as the resources at hand seem to be screaming out to us: ‘Take it or leave it.’
In fact, the best performance of the film comes from the over-aggressive Jatt-boy from Shaitan, Gulshan Devaiya as, wait for it, Chittiappa (really?). In what tragically characterizes the shortcomings of this compelling character-driven piece of cinema, his role, sadly, was entirely unnecessary. It threw us off-track as far as the entire story is concerned, and did nothing but make us sit up and admire the unquestionable talent of this young actor. Punjabi to Tamilian? Nou Problema.
Technically, Kashyap has gotten the best out of a camera (Rajeev Ravi) that refuses to honor motion as a concept. His framing, inspired from Wong Kar Wai for majority of the film, is spot-on and adds to the atmospherics quite well. The few songs, even though unnecessary, are charming little pieces that create a world of their own when played in loop. Kalki Koechlin has improved leaps and bounds from Dev. D in a role that she seems to have researched strongly, and probably lived for those 13 days. Prashant Prakash, her acting partner from a great play that I remember called The Skeletal Woman, is thin as thin can be, but does a good job as a psychotic drug-addict of a boyfriend. In what is probably the most effortless performance of the film, Pooja Swaroop as the parlour owner is a sight to behold and a delight to watch, in a role that has her talking gibberish to a phone most of the time. She embodies the very seediness of the environment that surrounds them, in a sort of endearing manner, if that was ever possible. Naseer is well… Naseer and his character is a good touch to an otherwise-relentless abuse of innocence.
If this was Kalki and Kashyap’s original intention all along (to proudly display indie talent at hand- including the superb background score and remarkable lyrics. irrespective of circumstances), then, well, this trial (by fire) is over. I’m not complaining, nevertheless, for this little film is still a good little advertisement of the immense talent lying around in the dark bylanes of our industry’s brutal complex.
Hindi, Drama, Color