Nishikant Kamat, gone too soon – Entertainment News , Firstpost – Firstpost

Nishikant Kamat's Mumbai Meri Jaan is that rare gem of a film that makes your heart bleed, your eyes cry and your spirits soar in the hope for a better tomorrow.
2020 was specially cruel to our entertainment industry. One by one we lost Irrfan Khan, Rishi Kapoor, (music composer) Wajid Khan, Basu Chatterjee, Sushant Singh Rajput, Saroj Khan, Jagdeep, S. P. Balasubrahmanyam, Soumitra Chatterjee, and Nishikant Kamat.
Nishikant Kamat’s going, I took personally. Though I had never met him we shared a certain bonding. Whenever he called he would speak in that soft respectful voice and tell me that I should not mind if he doesn’t respond to my messages immediately as he travelled a lot.
I first reached out to Nishikant after I saw his directorial debut, that exceptional Marathi film Dombivali Fast in 2005 which was quickly remade into Tamil as Evano Oruvanwith with Madhavan in the lead. Nishikant quickly became a successful director in Bollywood. But he hardly had any friends in the Mumbai film industry except John Abraham with whom he did the successful Force and Rocky Handsome.
But my favourite Kamat film will remain Mumbai Meri Jaan. Released On August 22, 2008, it vividly recreates the trauma after the train blasts on July 11, 2006. It is rare for a film based on a gruesome traumatic real-life tragedy to be made into a film where every character and almost every episode and moment is etched out with such unwavering care sensitivity and resonance.
Mumbai Meri Jaan is that rare gem of a film that makes your heart bleed, your eyes cry and your spirits soar in the hope for a better tomorrow. Even as it makes your heart sink as fictional characters emerge from the horrific rubble of the train blasts the reverberant drama brings to us moments that redeem the rapidly -disintegrating status of our society. All the principal characters are designed to represent real life and yet convey significances that take them beyond sensationalistic newspaper headlines.
Whether we live in Mumbai or not, each one of us is bound to find a bit of ourselves in one or the other of the protagonists. There’s Soha Ali Khan giving a career-defining performance as a hard-nosed television journalist who finds herself on the other side of the ‘offence’ when her boyfriend goes missing after the blast. This is a terrific terrifying and intimate study of irony and ambition, done is striking strokes of black and ‘fright’.
Then there is the Madhavan track. He’s a white-collar idealist who travels by train and almost gets killed in the blasts for his democratic principles. Madhavan brings a searching agony to his eyes, as suspicion and terror take hold of his heart creating situations in the script that are poignant and funny. Funniest in its savage cruelty is the jobless loiterer KayKay Menon’s suspicious trailing of a Muslim youth to a mosque…only to discover that the guy was is to meet his girlfriend. Paresh Rawal (does he ever stop being brilliant?) as the jaded cop in conversation with the young spirited colleague (Vijay Maurya) would remind you of Nana Patekar and Nakul Vaid in Ab Tak Chappan. Hold that thought…There’s a treasury of thought provoking challenging and deeply moving moments in Mumbai Meri Jaan to remind us how engaging cinema can be without sacrificing the message.
My favourite moment besides Soha’s obviously impressive breakdown sequence is the one where the Muslimphobic Kay Kay Menon –character accosts a poor old Muslim bread seller on the night after the blast. Even as such sequences make us cringe we applaud the power of cinema to convey home truths in caustic and comic coatings. With exceptional candour and emotion writer, Yogesh Vinayak Joshi weaves in and out of the lives of the irreparably wounded characters (and we aren’t talking physical damage). Whether it’s the look of bewilderment pain and shock in Madhavan’s eyes as he sees his limbless friend in the hospital after the blasts, or Irrfan’s look of triumph after he creates a false bomb scare in a shopping mall where he was insulted, Mumbai Meri Jaan discovers and celebrates the deep cleft between the haves and the have-nots . Each of the 5 principal performances are outstanding in their sensitivity and warmth. And it would be criminal to single any of them out.
Seldom have we seen such a showcase of brilliant writing, directing acting and communicating the power of cinema in all its glory.
Madhavan who worked with Nishikant in the Tamil Evano Oruvan and Mumbai Meri Jaan remembers the actor-director with great fondness. “Nishi was first and foremost a wonderful human being and a dear friend. When we worked together we were both relatively new to Hindi cinema. I was most impressed by his command of the craft, his grasp over the grammar of film direction. Nishi had a long way to go when death snatched him away from us with characteristic suddenness and brutality.”
Not many know this but Nishikant was also a terrific actor: scary intimidating and unforgettable as a bipolar in Prawal Raman’s Room 404 Error Not Found, and as the archvillain in Rocky Handsome and Bhavesh Joshi. There was little that Nishikant couldn’t do. Except fight death.
Subhash K Jha is a Patna-based film critic who has been writing about Bollywood for long enough to know the industry inside out. He tweets at @SubhashK_Jha.
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