Wednesday, September 16, 2009

No Smoking: An Underrated Gem!

And because I was just talking about it - today's transferred review is of No Smoking!


No Smoking was trashed by everyone when it came out. I understand why - it's not an easy movie to watch and it certainly bears no resemblance to the kind of popular Hindi film it was marketed as. Bispasha Basu did a trailer for the song "Phoonk De" which probably didn't help matters, as she doesn't appear AT ALL in the film. However, looking at it a year later without the baggage of a big release, I have to say No Smoking is a fantastic film - a David Lynch style film, using that dream-like non-sequitar storytelling he is so fond of.

(Also, I'm sorry, John, for making you feel like a piece of meat, but WOW!)

No Smoking is the story of "K" (John Abraham). K is an egotistical man, married to a woman he doesn't really understand or care for. The one thing he loves is cigarettes. He loves to puff away on those phallic symbols and nobody is going to get him to stop. Well, nobody until his wife tells him that it's cigarettes or divorce. See, K has this thing about divorce his parents got divorced twice and it scarred him. He picks marriage. Now follows the Treatment. Enter Paresh Rawal - who is excellent, by the way - as Guruji.

He has a no fail no smoking program! The catch - and there is always one of those - is that he gets you to give up cigarettes by taking away your life and family if you slip up and light up. Ears, fingers, brothers, wives will all go up in flames - leaving you with kuch nahin. And if you are like K then that won't be enough to stop you from lighting up.

BEWARE OF SPOILERS further on...

K finds out what happens to those who can't let go - a metaphysical lobotomy. Guruji kills your soul and returns the body to your normal life - changed. You're just a lash, no passion, no divine spark. Of course, the people in your life may like you better this way, just like K. I couldn't help but read the film for a Closet Metaphor.

"K for Klinton - that other cigar aficenado."

K is a man who has a passion that isn't socially acceptable and which irritates his traditional family and community relations. In order to keep them, he has to deny a part of himself. Rather than redefine his relationship with his community, and letting go of his wife that he has no interest in anyways, he panics and chooses social acceptability over his real feelings. The dead expressions of the other men who have quit smoking through the Treatment are enough to make you run in horror but soulless men conform better to society's standards.

Ranvir Shorey is really wonderful as K's best friend and 'smoking buddy.' There is a telling flashback scene where the two of them are smoking in a bathroom and are caught by Ranvir's father, who incorrectly assumes they were doing gay things with the door locked. He's relieved to find that they were just smoking. K's smoking could stand in for gayness or for artistic dreams or for any number of things that society's misfits find themselves outcast for. Is it really better to quit smoking?

I was so impressed with the whole film - well crafted, well acted, and the music was fantastic. The incidental music was even cheeky at times - "Beedi Jale" from Omkara played at one point!

Jesse Randhawa was SMOKING HOT as the cross-dressing dancer. (Call me, okay?!)

John Abraham did a fantastic job - and not just because he had his shirt off for 2/3 of the movie. He should be very proud of this role. If you passed on No Smoking because of the bad reviews, please consider taking another look. It's not a typical movie - popular or art house - it's more like Mulholland Drive or Donnie Darko.


eliza bennet said...

Yay! Yet another film we agree on :)

I loved No Smoking from start to finish and it is probably the only film I have seen John Abraham giving a good performance.

I loved the soundtrack, nod to Bob F but most of all the clean and uncluttered cinematography.

It may not be everyone's cup of tea (especially if one is a 'only masala' type of viewer) but it is a good film regardless of the country it is from.

shell said...

I've only seen 2 John movies and i honestly feel like I can take or leave him (despite the wonderful bod), but maybe this could change my mind. The list grows.....

martoufmarty said...

I loved No Smoking. I told the plot of the film to my sister and she said to be right away that it sounds like this Stephen King short story she read called Quitters Inc., and low and behold - someone even pointed that out on the Wikipedia page!

Filmi Girl said...

@Eliza and Martoufmarty

I'm so glad I'm not the only one who enjoyed this!!

Like I said - I understand why it got all those bad reviews (and poor box office) but I feel like that was more reflective of a poorly managed marketing campaign.

This movie deserves another chance to be seen by more people!

Long live the John/Anurag Kashyap jodi!

@shell Give John a chance - he's not a great actor but he's learned what he can do well, and is sticking to it. He's wasted in films like Garam Masala but when the character demands to be underplayed, he's right there on top of it.

Plus, I have a great deal of respect for him making unusual film choices - like Water, Kabul Express, and No Smoking. With his good looks, it would have been easy to coast but you can tell that not only does John care about acting but he goes out of his way to pick meaningful scripts now that he has more clout.

simran said...

I was so excited when I read this review! Being a huge John Abraham fan, I just had to watch it. And I might have been a bit biased towards him but I have to admit wholeheartedly that this movie was AMAZING! It's crazy and so unpredictable. It's a different experience every time you watch it! :D

simran said...

Plus, I have a great deal of respect for him making unusual film choices - like Water, Kabul Express, and No Smoking. With his good looks, it would have been easy to coast but you can tell that not only does John care about acting but he goes out of his way to pick meaningful scripts now that he has more clout.

I couldn't have said it better myself! :D I think John would be very lucky to hear those words from you. :)

I think I'm becoming a bigger fan of yours every day Filmi Girl! :D

Anonymous said...

Other good films of John include "Virudh" (with AB Snr and Sharmila Tagore), "Salaam E Ishq "and "Babul" - part of the reason (other than a jaded issue ie socially esp in urban areas - it is no big deal) Babul flopped was due to the limited focus on the John - Rani story. Too much emphasis was on the Salman - Rani story in the first half.

I too liked John in Water, Kabul Express.

I have always said that he will improve his acting and should be given a chance.

Kaitlyn said...

I loved this more than Dev. D. (I like SLB's version, pretty people, pretty sets hide a not-so-pretty story.)

I've read the book and the American adaption sucked (James Woods was the one who wanted to quit) it was in a movie called "Cat's Eye" from the '80s (of course) that featured 3 Stephen King short stories linked by a cat. I think.

No Smoking - much better, and the soundtrack is amazing. John looks amazing!

I read that the smoking has something to do with censorship, Kashyap was pissed with the censors or something.

But whatever it means, it's a weird little compelling story.

More Stephen King Bollywood adaptations, please!

Carrie - at one of the colleges in KKHH or MHN, tons of school songs, fun fun fun death death death.

The Shining - the songs are hallucinations!

Ariel said...

Just watched this movie and I was really impressed! The story was very compelling and the music fantastic! I never liked John enough to watch his movies, but he was ok here, plus he looked rather attractive with the hair framing his gave expression to his gaze which I normally find a bit hollow. (that`s why can`t like his acting generally) but yeah, I liked him in this role. Next I plan to see Water. :)

gah, and I can`t understand why is this movie so criminally underrated!! Not a single award or critical acclaim...If an European director would have made the movie, it would have achieved cult status on spot...but I`m almost sure No Smoking has a cult following (I`m not very familiar with happenings in Hindi pop culture though)

Really nice review of the movie! I love your style of writing and analysis! Love your blog, btw, and I read almost anything you wrote on my favorites Bollywood actors or movies...and I learn new things about Bolly and regional, parallel HIndi cinema...Keep up the good work, always a delight to read your updates, filmi girl! :)

Note from Filmi Girl:

I love Bollywood - and all the ridiculous things that happen in Bollywood - but it doesn't mean that I can't occasionally make fun of various celebrities and films.

If you don't like my sense of humor, please just move on by - Trolls are not appreciated and nasty comments will be deleted.

xoxo Filmi Girl
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