On a humid Friday afternoon, two ladies walk out of a crowded Mumbai theatre and hop into the first taxi that crosses their path.
All through the ride, the women crib about the increase in: the humidity, the price of movie tickets and oil in the Samosa. At last, they get down to yak about the movie they endured, not so long ago.
Now, when the film's title has a name like Taxi No 9 2 11, you can hardly blame the poor cabbie for eavesdropping.
Excerpts from the gabfest:
Passenger 1: I don't know if you have noticed but these days our films have started to look so much better. I mean, look at the way they are shot. So much thought goes in the presentation. It's not just about shooting four songs at Swiss locales anymore.
Passenger 2: You bet! I really liked the way Bombay (like it or not, most locals still address Mumbai by its erstwhile name) looks in Taxi. The throbbing pulse, the crowds, the rush, you can sense a sense of detachment and scramble in the air of its characters.
Taxi driver (to himself): Yeh film hai ke local train ka commentary (is it a film or a commentary on local trains)?
Passenger 1: Yes, yes. I was so happy to hear Sanju's voice (Sanjay Dutt, for the uninitiated) as the narrator. His Munnabhai lingo rocks, yaar!
Passenger 2: Sure it does. Though I don't understand, why they didn't use him in the climax as well. Logically speaking, if he opens the movie, he should end it as well. Right?
Taxi driver: Munnabhai bole to Sanjay Dutt? Phir to dekhnaich padega (Munnabhai as in Sanjay Dutt? Then this movie is a must-watch)!
Passenger 1: Oh yeah! I never thought about it. For all it's worth, I did notice a few continuity glitches. John (Abraham, again for the uninitiated) crashes his silver car into a tree and travels by a taxi the next day. Then he borrows girlfriend Sameera Reddy's silver four-wheeler. This one meets with an even worse fate -- it bangs into a truck. And at the end of the day, he has a brand new maroon Toyota Innova. Sameera's smashed up car is miraculously as good as new again. It was just crazy! And
Taxi driver: Desi dabbe mein videshi gaadi ka baat? Arre aye Dhanno, kaiko khali pilli bombabomb maarti hai? Dil pe mat le (Talking about foreign cars in my desi jalopy? Ignore the insults, sweet taxi of mine)!
(The conversation is interrupted when Passenger 2's mobile phone rings.)
Passenger 2: Hey honey, just on my way back from the movie. Yeah, it was time-pass. Moderately entertaining, I'd say. No sweetie, nothing like Bluffmaster. This is another director, Milan Luthria. Bluffmaster was by Rohan Sippy baba, he has only produced this, I believe. Why should I tell you the story? All right, all right, don't sulk.
Basically Nana (Patekar as Raghu Shastri) pretends to be a taxiwallah while his wife (Sonali Kulkarni) thinks he is an insurance policy salesman.
He has this major temper and all and has changed 23 jobs already. John Abraham (plays Jai Mittal) hitches a ride in his cab. He is in a major hurry because he needs to produce his dead dad's will and claim the property. Both guys meet an accident and then stuff keeps happening. They both have major attitudes -- temperamental fellas! They just keep squabbling and mess with each other's lives.
Uff, I can't answer all your questions right now. You should have come along. I am with a friend. I'll talk to you later. Bye-bye.
(Turns to Passenger 1) Husbands!
Taxi driver: (Mutters to himself) Yeh ladies log hamesha pati koich gaali kyon sunata hai!? Story to bheje mein utra nahi. Nana, Munna rahega bolke dekhne ko sakta hai (why do women keep cursing their husbands? Even I didn't understand what the story is about. But I might watch it, just because Nana and Sanjay).
Passenger 1: You should have just told him it's a remake of Changing Lanes. Remember that Ben Affleck and Samuel L Jackson movie that came on TV last month? I remember you told me he saw it.
Passenger 2: Ohhhh, is that so? I didn't know. I can't stand Ben Affleck. Anyway, was it any good?
Passenger 1: It was good in parts. Taxi No 9 2 11 is pretty much a desi version. They have deviated from the plot here and there, but the message the film sends out is the same.
Taxi driver: Hayla ek aur Swades (oh no, another Swades)?
Passenger 2: What message? People don't change overnight. They never had a valid reason to tussle so much in the first place. When John apologises and tries to make up to Nana, he should have simply relented. Instead he chooses to remove the brakes of his car and kill him? Also, the way they wrapped up things was simply unrealistic.
Passenger 1: Yeah I know. It was put across so ambiguously. At least Nana's character had some real issues. He speaks rudely. He's always cross. He's always getting into fights. So when Sonali pleads to him change his outlook, it's understandable. Whereas with John, I didn't like how they show a transformation in his behaviour towards the end. He seems careless but never vicious.
Passenger 2: Frankly, I'd rather not think too much about the emotional graph of these two. It was drastically inconsistent. Having said that, Taxi worked for me because it never got boring. The pace was breezy. There were barely any songs to get on the nerves. And the dialogues were absolutely delightful.
Passenger 1: You said it! I loved that scene when Nana tells his son: 'Bat kiska? Tera! Phir fielding kyon kar raha hai? Batting kar. Sachin (Tendulkar) ban, (Mohammad) Kaif nahi banne ka (It's your bat, so why are you fielding? Be Sachin Tendulkar, not Mohammad Kaif)!"
Taxi driver: Sahi bola (well said)!
Passenger 2: I am so glad that Nana is once again getting roles worth his talent. He is dynamite. I cannot imagine anyone else playing this role. Even though it's so inconsistently written, he brings out the nuances and layers resonantly in his performance.
Passenger 1: I couldn't have said it better. Actually, for once, I liked John a lot too. And not just for his looks!
Passenger 2: He's so yummy looking. Bipasha's so lucky, yaar.
Taxi driver: Chah! Yeh ladies log bhi, kya? John ka chikna thopda dekh ke fast local maafik daudne lagta hai (Women! The moment they see John's sissy face they get going like a fast local)!
Passenger 1: He was great in the scene where he's on the phone with his girlfriend (played by Sameera Reddy) and cribbing about Nana's driving skills.
Passenger 1: Oh it follows up into quite a highlight. The whole 'increase the horse-power-Nana sequence was funny, thrilling and larger-than-life at the same time. To their credit, the makers executed it convincingly.
Passenger 2: Unlike the ridiculous 'deewar todo Shekhar' sequence of Parineeta!
Passenger 1: The good thing is that although Taxi revolves around John and Nana, both Sonali and Sameera get decent screen time to show their skill.
Passenger 2: I'd like to see more of Sonali. Sameera was fine too. I don't regret going for Taxi No 9 2 11. It had its share of flaws but it was reasonably enjoyable.
Passenger 1: Oh yeah, total time-pass! Ah, we've reached home. Let me pay the cab fare. I insist.
Taxi driver: Aye Dhanno aaj film dekhne chalte hain. Mast naam hai -- Taxi No 9 2 11! Aati kya (Let's go watch the film. What a name Taxi No 9 2 11!)?