Lucknow Central: Predictable but not boring
In Ranjit Tiwari's Lucknow Central, Farhan Akhtar puts up a valiant effort to convince you that he is not just the guy who made the greatest multiplex film and more at home in films with urban backdrop, but can also be Kishan Mohan Girhotra from Moradabad, Uttar Pradesh. He pronounces crime as cry-um and says librarian not as lye-brair- ian but as lib-ray- rian. The librarian being his father who quotes a famous writer. Not F. Scott Fitzerald or Ernest Hemingway or Dostoevsky but Orson Welles. He tells Gayatri Kashyap (Diana Penty as an ill-defined NGO worker/activist/prison reformer) the translated version of this Welles quote - "Nobody gets justice. You get either good luck or bad luck"; Not particularly a great one from the master but something that will do for Lucknow Central.
Cast: Farhan Akhtar, Rajesh Sharma, Deepak Dobriyal, Diana Penty, Ronit Roy
Director: Ranjit Tiwari
Kishan, an aspiring singer, over the course of a night, is wrongly accused of murdering an IAS officer and soon sentenced to life imprisonment. These initial portions are brushed over too fast because Tiwari wants to get into his jail. We get only an opening song to understand how much any of this - singing, forming a band - means to Kishan. Or the relationship with his father, and his friend, who turns against him in the trial that is glossed over in a couple of scenes. The Lucknow Central jail is built up more to be an urban legend and less as a legendary confinement, and appropriately, Kishan gets a fitting welcome with the jailer played by Ronit Roy. Roy, sufficiently chewing the scenery here, plays this in ways very different from the fascist father he played in Udaan. Because that is a different film and Lucknow Central exists in a different register. This is a film where a Pandit, a Chattopadhyay, a Trehan, an Ansari and a Girhotra come together as band of brothers. The film is nothing if not for the individual quirks of the supporting characters. From the women and sex obsessed Dikkat (Inaamulhaq) to the electrician deadpanned by Deepak Dobriyal to Rajesh Sharma's Purushottam Madan Pandit - an unfortunate name considering his wife and daughter are unhappy with his conduct - to probably the least interesting member - Parminder Singh Trehan played by Gippy Grewal.
Lucknow Central, the prison, is set up like a high school dormitory. It has its share of territorial markings and oppression but Tiwari plays all of this at a surface level. There are only suggestive deviations - on his first day, Kishan is given a pack of condoms to go with the prisoner garb. The thing that holds your interest in this predictable-but- not-boring fare is, astonishingly, Ravi Kissen as the Chief Minister and his numerous playoffs with the police officials - the jailer and Inspector General (Veerendra Saxena). The Bhojpuri connection doesn't stop there. There is a cameo by BJP MP Manoj Tiwari as the singer, an idol of Kishan, who makes IAS officers dance to his tunes on stage. For a prison in Lucknow, Lucknow Central is remarkably devoid of Muslim representation (Dikkat comes across as a stock character), possibly going against what the data might suggest. Maybe we can add Lucknow Central to the ever-growing list of films in post-2014 India with blessings of the ruling government. Tiwari's film though is innocuous in this regard. The interesting film in here would be about Ravi Kissen as Chief Minister, ordering and threatening his lackeys around with the softest of touches, namedropping Donald Trump along the way.