Previously screened at Cannes, Amit Kumar’s Monsoon Shootout was the opening film of the London Indian Film Festival 2013. Produced by Guneet Monga and co-produced by Anurag Kashyap, Monsoon Shootout’s cast includes Nawazuddin Siddiqui (Shiva), Tannishta Chatterjee (Rani) and Vijay Varma (Adi), Geetanjali Thapa (Anu).
The story revolves around actions and consequences, the psychology of decision making, human emotions of guilt and regret. Adi, a moralistic Mumbai cop believes that ‘the truth is always simple’. However, as the story unravels, the truth becomes more and more complicated. Adi’s character provokes the question: what is the right thing to do? When he has to shoot and kill a suspected criminal, something stops Adi from pulling the trigger. The suspect gets away and this leads to dire consequences. What is fascinating about Monsoon Shootout is that Amit Kumar shows the pivotal moment of Adi pulling the trigger through three different decisions. Ultimately, with three different consequences. This highlights the question of what is the right thing to do? Other questions provoked are: can one ever beat the system? If a person had the opportunity to go back and re-make a decision, would their decision stay the same? The story explores death and its consequences for different people-in particular what value a person’s death holds.
Monsoon Shootout is superb in its camerawork. The shots of Mumbai look gritty and add to the sinister tone of the film. As the chase between the cops and the criminal take place, the camera becomes shaky to emphasise the uncertainty of the moment and to also truly take the viewer to the shootout. The repetition in the film when revisiting certain situations is spot on. This repetition is powerful not only to give an insight into Adi’s psychology but to build the suspense on what the next actions and consequences will be. As Amit Kumar previously stated in an interview with BollySpice, the monsoon scenes that take place were the most challenging aspect of filming. He added, the monsoon had to be perfect. There was no compromise that a bit of rain would do. It would take hours and hours some times. As you watch the monsoon fall in torrents, it is impossible to believe that this is not real and has actually been recreated. With the freeze shots and warped visual to pinpoint Adi’s dilemma of making the decision on to shoot or not to shoot, Amit Kumar places the viewer into Adi’s shoes powerfully. The violent scenes are made even more so intense because the viewer is not shown entirely what takes place. Instead, Kumar has used shots to symbolise the violence. For instance: the hacking off of a fish’s head adds to the imagination and perhaps symbolises that violence is an everyday part of life.
During the Q and A held with Amit Kumar during the London Indian Film Festival, he stated that he knew as soon as he met Vijay that he was perfect for Adi’s role. He said that there was something about Vijay’s eyes that suited the character entirely. Varma brings true to life Adi’s character by having complete control over the different emotions that sweep Adi away. Varma brings out the remorse, shock and confusion Adi is faced with through his body language, tone of voice and expressions. One cannot help but feel sorry for Adi as he sways back and forth on what decision to make. Nawazuddin Siddiqui plays the role of Shiva: the suspected criminal. The grittiness of this character comes to life with the intensity and anger he portrays. The ferocity especially comes out through the calmness Shiva’s character posses-as opposed to the confusion Adi’s character signifies. Nawazuddin has given a superb performance and fits the part. Tannishtha Chatterjee plays the character of Shiva’s wife. She develops her character well through each episode. She challenges her suppression and also shows her vulnerability. Her emotions are calm and when she suddenly burts into anger, the viewer gains an insight into the turbulence taking place within her. Geetanjali Thapa as Anu, plays Adi’s love interest. She does not have much screen time, similar to Tannishtha Chatterjee. However, both of these female characters remain at the back of the viewers mind and in a way, become pawns of the decisions the male leads make. Geetanjali plays the role of the doctor who treats Adi after his encounters. She serves as a safety net for Adi, especially emotionally. She reflects Anu’s disappointment and represents a choice that Adi cannot fulfil. The character that truly blew me away was the child who plays Shiva’s son. He portrays his anger and vulnerability with ease. The expressions on his face highlight him as particularly vulnerable to the choices that the two adults, Adi and Shiva make.
The soundtrack is by Gingger Shankar. Although there aren’t many songs, the ones that are in the film add to the mood. For instance, the music in the dancing bar is raunchy and sets the tone. There is one romantic song between Adi and Anu. Perhaps the inclusion of only one romantic song symbolises their undeveloped and uncompleted love story.
A draw back perhaps is that some scenes could have been trimmed to make the screenplay slightly tighter. It would also have made the viewer understand the female characters better by exploring them further. However, this is ultimately Adi’s story and the choice that he has to make.
Amit Kumar stated at the Q and A that: it is very difficult to fight the system. There are many people who try and lose their life in the process. It is perhaps not fashionable to fight the system and it is perhaps easier to join the system. I think unfortunately that’s the way the world is. And still, I would like to hold out a candle for the people who do fight the system- even though at the back of their mind they know they are doomed for failure, they would still like to fight it. I would like to believe that I would do the same.
A noir thriller that explores what it means to fight the system, the value of life and how decisions affect the self and others, Monsoon Shootout is a film to put on your list.