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A Nana special!

Last updated on: February 27, 2004 16:19 IST

Nana Patekar and Revathy in Ab Tak ChhappanAaj tere haath pe mehndi lag gayi," is how Inspector Sadhu Agashe (Nana Patekar) welcomes his new recruit Jatin (Nakul Vaid) after Jatin's first 'encounter' victim.

Yet another take on the life of encounter specialist Daya Nayak, (N Chandra's Kagaar - The Edge was a previous one), Ab Tak Chhappan tells the story of a hardened Crime Branch inspector who, along with his trusted men, eliminate unwanted elements of society, who otherwise would escape using legal loopholes.

As events unfold, Ab Tak Chhappan takes us through the daily routine of encounter specialist Sadhu Agashe, whose
tally of staged encounter killings stands at 56. We have a glimpse of his family life, his small group of friends, mostly within the force, even as he goes after the bad guys, with support from his mentor Commissioner Pradhan (Mohan Agashe).

But all is not well, for there is bitterness even among his own team. He is seen as always getting the credit and the publicity. And while he seems to be handling the gang wars between dons Raj Sekhar and Zameer with a certain degree of finesse, things slowly start to crumble after the new Police Commissioner Suchak (Jeeva) takes over.

His wife is killed, severely undermined, he resigns his job and, soon enough, his own team is sent after him with orders to eliminate him in an encounter. And he realises that if he wants to escape, he may have to depend on the very people whom he'd sworn to eliminate earlier.

An encounter still from Ab Tak ChhappanThere have been a spate of cop films in recent years, as the sleazy yet amorous side of the Mumbai underworld has gained a foothold in the annals of Bollywood cine fare.

Which begs the question: is the latest from the Ram Gopal Varma Factory any different, or is it yet another 'expose' of underworld dons, pimps, politicians, cops and the moolah that links them all? The answer, in the case of Shimit Amin's debut film, is thankfully the first.

Los Angeles-based director Amin, who earlier edited Bhoot (and who has co-written the screenplay) brings out the humane edge to his characters. These are very much everyday people doing their jobs for a living, for whom an encounter is just another day at work after which you buy whatever vegetables you need and go home to watch some television and chitchat.

To Amins credit he never resorts to the bar-girled clichés and highly oratorical fare that surround most Bollywood cop films.

As far as performances go, this is Nana's comeback vehicle and how! You see a far more intense, subtly menacing Nana -- a far cry from the histrionics-driven screams that enveloped fare like Shakti-The Power and Aanch. Nana drives the film with the intensity in his eyes, body language and an underplayed performance.

Yashpal Sharma, who seems very much the role model for corrupt cop/villager these days, comes out with a superb
performance as Imtiaz, Agashe's colleague who would love to be in his chair at any cost. Prasad Purandare, as the
offshore-based don to whom Sadhu eventually turns to for help comes up with a witty, brilliant performance. And
they are ably supported by Nakul Vaid and Kunal Vijaykar as members of Sadhu's team.

Nana Patekar in Ab Tak ChhappanAward-winning actress Revathy, as Sadhu Agashe's wife, is wasted in as role that could have been done by a far lesser artiste. Mohan Agashe, as Sadhu's mentor Commissioner Pradhan, seems at times unsure as to how to emote. A refresher course, someone?

Mixing jazz and Indian influences into Vangelis-like pieces, the background score by Salim Sulaiman is simply great and this duo seems all set to go places. While slightly jarring at times, this is ably intercut with sync sound sequences. Also to be rated highly, with some excellent framing, is cinematographer Vishal Sinha's work.

Surprisingly, the film is rather jarringly edited (surprising, because Amin is also an editor), and lacks a consistent thread.

On a scale of 1 to 5, this one easily inches close to 4. So see it for a Nana special, if not anything else!

CREDITS
Cast: Nana Patekar, Revathy, Nakul Vaid, Yashpal Sharma
Director: Shimit Amin
Producer: Varma Corporation/K Sera Sera
Music: Salim Suleman

Anil George