Director Amit Kumar ‘s Monsoon Shootout premiered for the first time in Cannes Film Festival in 2013 and it has taken a good four years to have a mainstream release in India.
The film luckily doesn’t show much weariness as Rajeev Ravi’s dimly lit frames and Gingger Shankar’s powerful background score lends it the much-needed foreboding tone.
Monsoon Shootout is more of a whydunnit – a psychological thriller that explores the notion of justice and if the end in fact does justify the means. At the centre of this dark noir world is Anu (Vijay Varma), a rookie cop who finds himself one rain washed night chasing a criminal, Shiva, down the slimy serpentine lanes of a Mumbai slum. His gun is attentively pointed at Shiva (Nawazuddin Siddique), who is just a jump away from evading death or in a sombre scenario – an arrest. And at this precise point Anu must make the choice that his father always spoke about – the “teen raaste (3 routes) ” that life offers – Ek “sahi (right)”, Ek “galat (wrong)” and Ek “beechka (mid-way)” raasta.
It is this defining moment that the narrative routinely takes us back to (which sadly also makes it painfully predictable in parts) as we address the moral dilemma of not just the central characters but even our own biases, and how our response changes with every alternate scenario. How does crime match up to state-sanctioned killings ? Are they all part of the same malaise ? When the victim also perpetuates the same depravity who does one sympathise with ?
As each of the alternatives play out, we understand bit by bit the pulls and motivations of the participants. Anu who always dreamt of joining the police and now wishes to do his best but with a clear conscience – Is he really a misfit for the job or the change that the society actually deserves ? His senior, Khan (Neeraj Kabi) who spares no one and doesn’t let the voice of his conscience distract him from the demands of his job. And then of course there’s Nawazuddin Siddiqui, as the axe killer with an unflinching death stare.
Having seen Siddiqui’s striking performances in films such as Raman Raghav and Badlapur, his depravity here seems more controlled and lacklustre.
The film’s biggest strength is the casting. Vijay Varma as Anu, an honest officer overwhelmed by the demands of his duty is on point rarely letting his hold slip. Neeraj Kabi as nuanced as always is hugely effective and imbues his character with a mysteriousness that matches the over all mood of this suspense thriller. As for the women , Geetanjali Thapa and Tannishtha Chatterjee leave a lasting impression even if their characters are relegated to the margins in the scheme of things.
Monsoon Shootout does not unnecessarily stylise or glorify violence and focuses unflinchingly on the moral dilemma of its central character. It is riveting in parts but the laboured writing stops it from making a powerful impact. It lacks the sting but watch it for the performances.