The pot-bellied grotesque politician from Rajasthan used to be the face of politics in India at a time when the Chautalas were doing their 'ghotalas'. With a new crop of smarter netas, hopefully less susceptible to corruption, the era of the 'bad' politician seems blessedly behind us.
And that's precisely why producer-director K.C. Bokadia's 'dirty' look at the filth in Indian politics is hopelessly outdated. This is the murky Machiavellian world of Prakash Jha's politicians stuck in a time-warp. Denuded of all intellectual sensibility, it harks back to the 1970s when netajis in our films were so caricatural that they belonged to cartoons in vernacular newspapers.
Om Puri plays his role of the lecherous politician with lip-smacking relish. Like a diabetic man whose wife is away to her mother's house, while he gorges on forbidden junk food.
This is junk food for the audience that believes cinema is about seductive heroines, lascivious villains, loud over-punctuated background music, camera angles and cinematography that seem to adhere to the gimmicky treatment, like an annoying snivelling child clinging to its mother's bosom.
Bokadia's cameraman Paneer Selvam seems to know exactly what the director wants. Fleets of politicians' cars are shot in high-speed to save time. Or is it to make the frames look more exciting than they actually are? God knows, this film desperately needs a reason to survive its lengthy playing time. Actors of the calibre of Atul Kulkarni and Sushant Singh grapple with a script and lines that are so outrageously didactic that they sound like messages written on the walls of the loo at a government office visited week after week by tired pensioners.
Curiously, Kukarni and Singh play honest policemen, brothers named Nischay and Nirbhaya. Get it? They work together to eradicate the dirt from politics. But who's going to clean out Indian mainstream cinema from the lingering legacy of a distastefully pungent past that films of this kind stubbornly cling to?
It is hard to say which is a funnier sight. Mallika Sherawat trying to act in a sari. Or Mallika Sherawat trying to act coy while Om Puri takes off her sari. Either way she cuts a 'sari' figure trying to do what she was never cut out to do - act.
As the dancer-turned-politician Anokhi Devi, Mallika tries to compensate for her lack of acting chops with facial vigour and physical energy.
There is a particularly unaesthetic lovemaking sequence done in deliberately bad light which can't hide Puri's flab and Sherawat's disinterest. Can a film about a horny politician and a wily item girl be made without the two looking interested in each other?
Reduced to the indignity of playing a lecherous over-libidinous politician who has the hots for an ambitious siren, Om Puri does what he can, given the constraints of a corny script that relies on sleaze and shock value to get our attention. Other talented actors like Naseeruddin Shah (playing an honest journalist stuck with a daughter whom the politicians kidnap), Anupam Kher (playing a straight-faced honest CBI officer), and Ashutosh Rana (very effective as Om Puri's right hand man) Aseem, seem to be in it for fun.
Nothing that we see in "Dirty Politics" justifies the presence of these talented actors.
A very poorly executed film which makes you feel sorry for the body-politic of the nation. Surely things are not so bad in politics?