Say No to ‘No Smoking’

After two highly controversial films, although good films, ‘Black Friday’ and ‘Paanch’, Director Anurag Kashyap is back with his next film. ‘No Smoking’ seems to be Anurag’s commercialized attempt at Bollywood. Most people would go to see ‘No Smoking’ especially since it’s made by Anurag Kashyap who is known for his intelligent film making. The director might have made the film to make people aware of the dangers of smoking but the problem is the movie is too abstract to get the message across successfully.

I’ve heard of leave your-brain-behind movies but for ‘No Smoking’ no matter what you leave behind, it still is the most bizarre and confusing movie I have seen ever! Movies like Memento, Matrix, Schindler’s List were too, but in a smart and thought provoking way. This movie was ridiculous, laughable, illogical, chaotic, confusing and totally dispensable.

Psuedo-Intelligent crap is what I would call it. It’s a different style of cinema that Hindi cinema has ever done, but that’s not always a good thing. In his bid to be different, to be “artistic”, to break the set parameters, and to rebelliously defy all that is stereotypical, Kashyap goes over the top. He has made a film, which is hard to understand with no logical progression in the story. The plot keeps flitting from one situation to another – some amusing, some ludicrous. Different is NOT always good.

I always watch most hindi movies with an open mind to take as much BS as I can handle but this movie, however much you try to extend your creative and imaginative boundaries, it leaves you confused. No matter how hard you try to understand or even remotely digest it,  it just gets confusing and exasperating. First half of movie is slight promising but second half is a complete disaster. Overall, it’s just plain torture.

K (John Abraham) is a chain smoker and an arrogant man who likes to have his way, come what may.  Yes the character’s name is just K. No name, just an alphabet. His brother an asthma patient is G. In the first scene he emerges from a dream in his bathtub. It is a dream that haunts him. He is in Siberia dying to smoke a cigarette. But Russian soldiers, keeping him housebound, won’t let him do that. And they don’t mind putting a bullet into K to stop him from smoking.

In his plush apartment, K stands in front of a mirror, lights his cigarette, puts on his goggles and admires himself. He turns a deaf ear to his wife Anjali ( Ayesha Takia ) who is sick of his smoking habit. “No one tells me what to do,” he utters to himself in the mirror with a look of vanity in his eyes.

K is a compulsive smoker. So are his friends. Enter his weirdo friend, Abbas (Ranvir Shorey), a big time smoker turned non smoker who recommends a rehabilitation center to get rid of this bad habit. The place where he sends him to, is run by some strange Guruji Baba(Paresh Rawal) with his group of weirdo followers. K visits Baba’s pryogshala in the squalid interiors of a slum. It is a visit that turns K’s life around.

You slowly begin to realize that everyone associated with this “rehab center” has a hearing aid on, is missing a few fingers and has some family member in a hospital gravely ill and so on…..and from here the vague ride begins. This weirdo friend gets a parcel from the guruji as a thank you gift for referring K to him. And this parcel contains his chopped up fingers which as soon as he places in his hands, magically reattaches itself…nerves, muscles, bones and all. Just makes me proud to see Indian movies still showing such bull-crap.

He is forced to enter into a pact with this place according to which he will turn deaf if he smokes his first cigarette. If he smokes second cigarette, K’s asthmatic brother will be put in a gas chamber filled with smoke. If he smokes the third one, his fingers will be chopped off. If he smokes again, he would lose his wife forever.

How K’s life spirals into an inevitable doom after this pact is what the remaining film is about. By the time the movie ends, it is hard to ascertain what is K’s dream and what is reality.

The movie, for the most part, has a surreal look. Sadly, the story makes no sense. Some of the sequences are truly over your head. It’s a lame attempt at being cool and intelligent.

For instance, K’s wife is killed after he is forced to smoke a cigar. He is arrested by cops and put behind bars only to wake up in his bed with his wife sleeping alongside. Later, while running away from a Russian soldier in Siberia, K dives into snow, enters into water and emerges through a tunnel into the netherworld of Baba’s pryogshala. But there, K sees his own self on the other side of a glass. “That is your body,” K is told by another inmate. Then this “spirit” or antar atma of K takes a smoke bath like the Jews who were put in gas chambers by Hitler in the portions of ‘Schindler’s List’ shown early in ‘No Smoking’. The trouble with ‘No Smoking’ is that it rests on a concept that Anurag has stretched beyond its snapping point. Till the end it is difficult to comprehend what the director actually intended to show.

After many many ‘Memento’ moments, after many ‘I give up trying to follow this movie’ moments, after many’ What the F is going on’ moments, 2 hours have gone by and the movie ends when you think the movie is acually going start to make sense any moment now.

I would be crazy to rate it more than a zero.

2 Responses

  1. Hello there…….nice post i must say………..bt don’t u think that u’ve been a little hard on the movie and also the director…….i mean Anurag Kashyap is perhaps one of those directors who just cant simply fit into the typical Bollywood type………and the movie is well made too…………have u seen anything by the American filmmaker David Lynch or Stanley Kubrick…………Lynch’s Mulholland Drive was similarly incomprehensible and it still is…………yet beneath this lurks a deeper vein of reason and understanding………..and the reason he names the protagonist as “K” is because Kashyap is a huge fan of Kafka and if u read Kafka’s “The Trial” then u would find the protagonist as being named as only “K” there too. In fact, the movie does have shades of Lynch in it and the only reason Kashyap didn’t get his due is because he is the only filmmaker who dares to be different. Moreover, have u considered taking the whole film as an existential puzzle?? And abt the scene where the fingers fit in magically…..well its a post-modern technique called as Magic Realism…………it is being used in books and movies the world over………..for instance, “Big Fish”………….u shld also read up anything by Marquez and u wud knw the deeper significance of this technique………There’s a lot I can say abt this movie and one last thing is that it makes perfect sense……….

  2. Thanks for the comment Arnav. It’s a complete departure from the way I see it. Very interesting….

    Yes I am aware of David lynch and Stanley Kubrick. Mullholland drive was incomprehensible, I agree but thinking back about this movie, I still find it hard to digest a comparisn between these two movies.

    Agreed it is a completely novel way of looking at cinema, but Big fish was about fantasy and magic all through. The magic finger pasting back seemed to suddenly appear without any prelude to ever understand what genre this movie is about.

    It’s easy to classify mullholand drive, big fish and many of the other incomprehensable movies made so far. Bt this one seemed quite a bit all over the place and hence seemed like a poor immitation of many other such similar movies with no place of its own.

    For the first 10 mins I thought it was thriler, them wondered if it was drama, it moved on to being physchological thriller, then it suddenly turned into magical realism, and so and so forth…I really think it was not true to any concept and hence the complete chaos.

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