Monsoon Shootout: As Engaging as it Gets
Following its official screening at Cannes in 2013, Monsoon Shootout took the better part of four years to release in India; and it's well worth the wait
This crime noir film by Amit Kumar presents two central characters – choice and violence – that embroil the lives of the humans in the storyline. These humans are cops and gangsters, for the majority of it. At the heart of the narrative, and around whom the whole plot revolves, is Adi, a green-behind-the-ears rookie in the Mumbai Police whose conscience is put to the test after he must make a choice to shoot an alleged criminal or not. Then, there’s Adi’s immediate boss, Khan, a hardened veteran who, unlike his young protégé doesn’t see things as black and white; his ethically sketchy philosophy is muddled in the belief that criminals must pay by other means, as they don’t get what they deserve because of India’s ineffective justice system. Khan can be heard telling Adi, “Kya farak padta hai?” (What difference does it make?), while placating the latter after a fake encounter. To add to all this is the seedy Mumbai underworld. First there’s Dagar Bhai, who extorts copious amounts of cash from builders. Don’t pay up, and you’re done for. Shiva, a small-time yet ambitious hoodlum, does Dagar’s bidding in order to climb the ranks. The local politician who needs the don’s support to remain in power, is pressurising the police department to go cold on the extortion case to further his own ends. Finally, right from the police commissioner downwards, a pliant force is in full swing. Influence and bribes get almost anything done. There isn’t any moral centre to fall back on. The closest anyone comes to that is Adi (and the woman he is interested in), but that in itself is a big maybe.
Director: Amit Kumar
Cast: Vijay Verma, Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Neeraj Kabi, Tannishtha Chatterjee, Gitanjali Ramakrishna, Omkar Das Manikpuri, Iravati Harshe
Three scenarios are brought to the fore in Monsoon Shootout – each one hinges on a choice Adi must make in a split second. It all boils down to this: To shoot or not to shoot, that is the question? And that choice, once made, has a trickle-down effect that touches the lives of everyone involved. In the midst of a torrential downpour, Adi and Khan wait for something bad to go down underneath a busy local railway junction. Their tip-off relates to the extortion case involving the builders and the mafia. While they take cover at different ends of the road, a taxi and bike arrive, one after another. Moments later, shots are heard from the eatery nearby. Adi chases down a suspect who flees the scene. In the pivotal sequence (one that the director keeps returning to for answers), the former has the suspect at gunpoint while the man is halfway up a wall. Does he shoot? Does he let him get away? Does he injure him to initiate an arrest? Is there enough evidence, to begin with? Well, the complicated answer lies in that all-encompassing dialogue – “Teen raaste; sahi raasta, galat raasta, aur beech waala” (Three paths; the right path, the wrong path, and the one in between).
The film ingeniously explores questions pertaining to the story’s moral compass. Adi’s conscience can easily be a character by itself. How one difficult decision, and its ensuing impact, can alter the lives of not just the decision-maker but everyone close to the person, is indeed thought-provoking. What makes Monsoon Shootout so good is that it refrains from telling you what exactly took place; all it does is give you options to choose from. The questions are clear, but the answers fall into a sort of grey area. There are no clear distinctions made between the cops and gangsters, either. Both entities perpetrate great violence, in effect, making them more similar, if anything. Statements of means justifying the ends, and vice versa, keep popping up in the plot, but judging by Adi’s big dilemma, taking a stand isn’t all that simple.
Vijay Verma lends a certain genuineness to Adi, just as Nawazuddin Siddiqui is as funny as he is menacing in the role of Shiva. Gitanjali Ramakrishna (who plays Anu) does a fine job in her supporting role. It is perhaps Anu who is Adi’s true moral compass in the film. Monsoon Shootout, with its trope of crooked cops and dangerous criminals, presents a truly engaging crime drama on what it means to choose – one way or the other.