At a climactic point of “The Players” where the protagonist and antagonist are engaged in a verbal O.K.Coral shootout, one of them says:
“Mera kaam hai naya twist laana. Tumhara kahani bahoot predictable ho gya hai”
Among the many special elements of “The Players” this was one of its finest, a moment of crystalline cinematic purity where the voice of the creator and the voice of his creation merge as one. It was as if the director-duo Abbas-Mastan, who are to film-making what Bonny and Clyde are to crime and Hobbs and Sutcliffe are to cricket, are trash-talking their contemporaries, those that make straight stories about straight people.
Because for Abbas-Mastan, it’s all about the twist. As a matter of fact so twisted are they, that within the first ten minutes, Abhishek Bachchan discovers a secret CD cut out in a novel, a novel sent to him by dead-criminal Aftab Shivdasani. No, the twist isn’t in the fact that someone gave Aftab Shivdasani 15 seconds of screen-time (which is what he had) or the fact that he would be seen with a book.
No the twist is in the name of the said tome.
The twists of “Players” are present not only in the plot but also in Abbas-Mastan’s perception of reality. In that they are willing to twist the physical world, the laws of physics, geography and human behavior just in order to get that twist in. Like how they got that boat as the escape-vehicle in “Ajnabee” which many felt was rather twisted, since the story was set in land-locked Switzerland. Like how in “The Players”, a high-end jewellery store in Amsterdam is shown whose security is laughable, even after discounting the fact that Johnny Lever is an employee there.
Many of his critics pooh-pooh these minor reality-warps as plot holes, because catching “plot holes” makes them feel “Aha I caught you” superior. What they do not understand is that discovering so-called “plot-holes” in an Abbas-Mastan movie is like finding financial herapheri in the Commonwealth Games accounts book—there is no credit in it.
Actually the directors want you to feel smug and contented. Its the set-up that helps them pull the twist while you are feeling all god-damn superior. Or laughing your guts out.
Keen readers would have already noted the number of times I have used the word “twist” in this review. This in itself is a homage to the dashing director-duo whose ouvre is characterized by, among other things (like the prominence given to Johny Lever’s comedy routines and Bipasa Basu being made to play the exact same role in every movie), incessant repetition. In “Race”, the characters kept on using the word “race” in almost every sentence to emphasize the pace and the raciness of the movie. In “Players” the safe-word is “Baibaaaah”—”Dress me up baibaaah”, “Open the web baibaah” which we presume is Playaaah-like.
While on the subject of dialog, the research that has gone into “Players” is mind-boggling as Abbas-Mastan bring out perfectly the lingo used by international men and women of crime—-the profusion of “Baibaah”s, profoundities like “Playing ka time khatam hua. Let’s go for Gold”, “What a chick”, ”Players ! Jackpot !” and even a Tarantinoesque self-reference to a past film—”Ready for the Race Baibaah?” (It may be a co-incidence that the Race sequel is round the corner). And that is not all the Tarantino there is. There are hat-tips to the “Roop ki Raani Choron Ka Raja” train sequence and to the scene where Tanuja is killed in “Aatish” as also to Abhishek Bachchan’s greatest work (the “Idea” series of ads) with the line “What an idea.”
Not just repetition. Abbas-Mastan also is a master of replication. Unfortunately critics misrepresent this trait by using words like “copying” when analyzing Abbas Mastan’s past works. In “Players” he sends his haters for a chakka by legally buying the remake license from “Italian Job” which makes “Players” kind of like the Congress party—an Italian job at its core but with a lot of desi layered on top, like spaggheti served with tandoori chicken.
And what a feast ”Players” is. Mini Coopers. Johnny Lever saving the day. Bobby Deol as an “Illusionist” who wears a Mexican sombrero to look cool. Feats of deduction that would make Miss Jane Marple do an item-dance, like when Abhishek Bachchan deduces that a robbery was committed by a woman because only a woman would make sure to change the arrangement of the vase in the room she just robbed. Surreal sequences like where a Russian general does a strip-tease to “Mera joota hai Japani” and asks why Indians sing when they are horny. Sonam Kapoor tries desperately to look sexy. Abhishek Bachchan tries even more desperately to act. Bipasa Basu while masterminding a heist belts out lines, pregnant with subtle allusions, like “I can see the tunnel now” and “Main speed bara rahi hoon”.
Indeed. What a feast. Full of cheese.
In a season where the official “Players” are getting their asses handed to them in Australia with the only thing they can get up being their middle fingers, escape from it all by seeing the real “Players”.