I am crossing the border between sane, clinical interest and into the wild realms of crazy-enough-to-get-all-completist when it comes to Abhay Deol filmography. But you can't possibly blame me, because just like Siddharth, my only other object of filmography completism, this man does not make bad films.
He really doesn't.
So of course I'll keep watching. Insert narcotics addiction reference of choice.
Oh well. At least his films don't come with a 30 dollar shipping charge from BhavaniDVD (yes I am looking at you, Siddharth). Plus it's always great to know that I'm not alone. If I was truly crazy I'd get completist about somebody who boasts a 200+ credit filmography and has been known to appear in some stinkers, right? These guys with their barely 10-film long filmographies are peanuts.
But really delicious peanuts.
Ek Chalis Ki Last Local (2007), directed by Sanjay Khanduri, is a bit of a weird one. It's a black comedy about two people who miss the last train (that leaves at 1:40 AM) and try to kill a few hours to catch the morning one. In the beginning of the movie, Nilesh (Abhay Deol), our narrator, has walked away with 2 crore in a suitcase, but how? A movie-long flashback scene begins. First he crosses paths with Madhu (Neha Dhupia), who is also heading towards the same part of Mumbai as he. It's a bit of a Kaminey Lite - we see various characters in different situations and towards the end, most of them part of the underworld, things get messier, and we see the individuals coming together. It's all just a little Tarantino, for better or for worse.
I had some small irks, like how boring the characters besides Nilesh and Madhu are, and how I didn't really care about what happened to them, or the romantic arc, which is definitely one of the strangest I've seen in a while. It starts out as frank sexual desire on Nilesh's part, as well as a bit of a saving-the-girl complex, then dissolves into something undescribable, then Madhu does something one could only do to somebody they truly cared for, and by the end.. Well, see it for yourself. Throughout the film there was a bit of an uneven feel to it. I liked it but at the same time I felt like I shouldn't like it.
But overall, I definitely liked it. Like Oye Lucky! Lucky Oye!, it had me constantly chuckling to myself, even if the humor here is broader in some ways. Abhay is great and Neha Dhupia totally reminded me of why I like her; the role is not the most typical but she gives it great edge. And she's of course amazingly gorgeous. The kiss between them (yes! there is one!) happens under bizarre circumstances storywise, but visually it's great, not awkward in the least.
Ahista Ahista (2006) is quite honestly the Abhay Deol film I've liked least so far. The plot tells of the aimless, ambitionless Ankush (Abhay Deol) meeting Megha (Soha Ali Khan) who has eloped to Delhi but her boyfriend never shows up. Ankush takes care of her, makes sure she has a roof over her head and as she gets settled back into a regular life, he slowly falls in love with her and also manages to make progress with his own life as well. The story is fairly unbalanced towards Ankush's side of things; we see very little of what Megha thinks or feels. Soha does a great job portraying some of it with her eyes rather than dialogue, but it still feels like we're missing one half of the story.
Normally I'm not one to chuckle at lame "hey this word means another thing in some other language" but whenever I type "ahista" I am reminded of the Finnish colloqualism, "ahistaa", roughly meaning "I'm feeling distressed/anguished." The verb ("ahdistaa") used can also mean "pressure" so I guess the idea is that you're feeling pressured from all sides, feeling trapped somehow.
It certainly in some ways describes my feelings towards this movie, even though I know the Hindi meaning is quite different. I never get a sense of whether the film is trying to be a love story or a coming-of-age story or both or neither, and the ending really kills most of the fondness I had for the movie. I hate to say this because I know Imtiaz Ali normally writes good stuff (he scripted this): the ending is just bad writing. I disliked the second half so much I began skipping and what I did see of it was not good. I suppose the ending in some ways may seem logical. But I just wasn't into it.
And now I have to recommend everybody out there watch CNBC TV18's Beautiful People interview with Abhay Deol. Part 1 of 3 is here. Seriously, seriously good stuff, including what makes an independent film in the Hindi film industry (vs non-Indian ones), art vs craft etc. Some people may disagree with me on the interviewer but I rather like her. She puts actors on the spot, and doesn't necessarily make them feel comfortable by patting them on the head and showering them with compliments all the damn time. Her interview about Salman Khan is also worth a look; Salman looks positively pissed off at her, but he reveals a lot of stuff and in the end I think he's just frustrated at certain things fame has brought into his life, which he'd rather keep quite simple. Beautiful People, based on what I've seen, is ALWAYS a good watch.
PS. I want to coin the term Hindie for Hindi 'independent' films. Of course, it makes no difference when spoken out loud but I just kind of dig it.