Yes, this is about the recent comedy thriller Mithya. But before I get to that, I want to give you a bit of background about my relation with movies. So hold your horses and go get some popcorn.
Growing up, watching movies was not a part of our childhood. There was no movie theater in our town, or we used to call cinema hall. We used to hear about movies a lot though from those who went to the city to watch movies. They had two theaters. And yes, it was before TV became a common house hold thing. Such were the times. We were more accustomed with the bioscope: the small box with little holes where you can stick your face and watch a few slides move around to give an illusion of movement. So it was always fascinating to hear about the movie theater; not necessarily the movies but how it felt to be inside one of them. As I later came to suspect, they used to add their own color about the city and the cinema halls.
Later in my teen years when we moved to the city, I saw movie theater first hand, but still it was rare occasions. Back then movies were considered damaging to young minds and family wallet. We were only permitted to see U rated movies. Once in a year or so, whole family would go to see a movie that is already reviewed by my father. This used to coincide with the visits of my aunt and her family. This is the only aunt both of my parents liked. “I tell you what, she is a good person,” my mother would say whenever her name came up in the conversation. “I agree,” my father would respond. That was rare, since he never agreed about any other relative. So it was always a happy moment for me.
My visits to movie theater was not frequent until I left home; first for collage and then work. At my first job, I had this older collogue, and everyone called him Biruda on the account he was a Bengali from Kolkata. Well, that explains the postfix “da,” but not the first part. His real name was nothing close to Biru. I cannot even remember what his real name was. I was told the name was an inside joke about his courage or lack thereof. I never got the joke. The reason I mentioned him is that he is the first passionate person about movies I knew.
Even today the image I have of him is talking excitedly about the new movie or theater. Every year he would try so hard to put together a theater production, but without any success. So he would talk about it all the time. He knew about all the movies with full details. His memory of movies were impressive, until you realized he did not see most of them and most of the things he so passionately claimed were not true. After a while I came to know that despite his passion and enthusiasm he could not afford to go to the theaters. But he was always entertaining. More than he never recommended a movie I did not enjoy. Not sure that is because he had a high standard, or I had none.
So what Biruda has to do with Mithya? Well, the title reminded of his style. His passion was true even without any facts. His views were honest even without being true. That is art: it is a lie that tells a truth. Whenever I think of movie, I think what Biruda would say. I cannot match his passion for movies, but all you will get from me is a photocopy of his style. Well, I have to warn you the photocopier in the corner store, where we usually go, makes scary noises and smells of kerosene. We are not responsible for your expectation of quality.
Mithya is a comedy thriller. Or so they say. What does that mean? A funny thriller? That smells a bit of self contradiction. Is it supposed to make us laugh or bite our nails? Well it seems both. It is suppose to both amuse and shock us. And everyone is saying so. May be I am getting ahead of the story here. Let get the basics first.
It is a Hindi movie about the world of Hindi movies. Yes, it is self referential: it revolves around Bollywood life. A young actor VK comes to Bollywood with big dreams. Who does not? Then he gets involved in the underworld. In Bollywood is it still the underworld? The mafia is the thriller part of it. The mafia originated in Sicily, and whenever I think of Indian mafia, it makes me laugh. But no, that is not the comedy part.
His involvement is not intentional, but he is too deep into it to get out. It seems he becomes an imposter, an imposter who wasn’t. What an existential quandary. From then on it gets into a usual run-of-the-mill story telling until the expected climax. But there is body doubles, moral redemption, shallow introspection of the movie industry, few lines of disjointed jokes thrown around. And oh, before I forget, there is Naseeruddin Shah. That is always a good thing in my book.
So what I think of Mithya? To tell you the truth, I think lot of people will enjoy it. When it comes to comedy, Indian movies today are not too different from the bioscope of my childhood. We are still happy with jokes rather than humor, let alone wit. As for thriller, well there is gangsters and kidnapping. What else you want?
I can hear Biruda saying: “You kids will enjoy Mithya. But if you want real comedy or a thriller…”