Ram Gopal Varma can heave a sigh of relief. For a change, the focus would shift from him to Anurag Kashyap when it comes to bashing a director for a film made by him/her. At the end of the year, when the award for the most horrendous film of 2007 would be given out, NO SMOKING would certainly win with the biggest of competitors being far-far away. Though RAM GOPAL VARMA KI AAG was leading from the front for many ever since it's release, NO SMOKING seems unbeatable until and unless a bigger turkey is served before 2007 ends.
Arrey ye tha kya yaar? I mean some talks about 'aatma', 'parmaatma', 'nashvar shareer' etc. etc. etc. "Mind and body, heart and soul" - goes a popular jingle by Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy for a plastic card company. Seems NO SMOKING takes a cue about mind, body, soul and something more and creates a mish-mash of affairs which only he would have perhaps understood.
Anurag's intentions were right to begin with. He wanted to make cinema which breaks all norms. Perfectly fine. He wanted to present visuals as never seen before. Again correct. And he very much succeeds too in most part of the film. He wanted to tell a tale which doesn't quite belong to this world. No problems; it's good for an attempt. But then why not have your narrative walk along with the audience? Why to be 5 steps ahead at every point in the narrative?
The journey begins on an excellent note. Audience is completely hooked the moment John's sojourn in far off Siberia comes alive on screen. His nightmares coupled with his health and family problems hardly make a difference to his attitude even as cloud bubbles on screen showcase his hatred for his pretty wife Ayesha Takia. So far, so very nice.
John doesn't want to quit smoking but everyone around him wants. One of them is his squint eyed friend Ranveer Shorey who has lost his ears and fingers because he didn't follow Guruji's [Paresh Rawal] instructions for leaving smoking. John is the next in line for seeking Rawal's advise and his journey to his cell (a metaphor for hell) is done imaginatively too.
The trouble begins from this moment on. It's time to end the real world and get embroiled into some mumbo-jumbo which becomes completely indecipherable after a point of time. Guess what? Paresh has the video cassettes of all living beings (BRUCE ALMIGHTY anyone?), keeps track of all their movements, causes window panes to shatter by themselves if one of his patients is caught smoking, harms their friends and relatives (via satellite kya?) if the offense is repeated etc. etc.
Chalo ye bhi maan liya! As such even this is hard to digest but phir bhi maan liya. But aaila ye kya? Suddenly narrative becomes deeper and dense as some Cuba returned old friend of John (is he a smuggler, gangster, businessman - we don't know) starts talking about his name being spelt wrong and what brought him to India. He forces John to smoke. John resists. Paresh's assistants think otherwise. They punish John. It's a different matter though that 'action replays' project John as innocent. Pronto Paresh's assistant is thrown in hell. So much for 'insaaf'!
Achcha ab ye waala suno! Apparently there was no double role-shouble role business of Ayesha Takia in the film. She first appears as sweet-si wife in the beginning and then remerges as a triple-the-bust line secretary later, while confusing the hell out of the audience. Is she a different person? Or the same? Or probably some subconscious mind of John playing games. 'Arrey nahi, this time I will play simple', Anurag must have thought. It is so explained that the secretary is the same person as a wife and was some staged drama for keeping the office people guessing....and gossiping. Par kyon? Ye main nahi bataoonga. (Pssst, mujhe khud nahi pata!)
Even as you somehow survive the movie to an