You go in with almost no expectations, the cast is virtually little know names except for Boman Irani, Soha Ali Khan and Vinod Khanna – yes THE Vinod Khanna. You come out pleasantly surprised at the crisp and well told story, good performances and a thoroughly enjoyable experience. Sachin (Kunal Khemu) and Zaramud (Cyrus Broacha) are two small time crooks who replicate mobile SIM cards for a crooked living, but carry no mobile phones themselves. They end up as bonded labor to the crime boss AGM Bhai (Mahesh Manjrekar) when they destroy his car in an attempt to get away from the police. Rahul (Boman Irani) has a gambling addiction and ends up owing money to AGM Bhai. His habit has estranged him from his wife (Simone Singh). Sachin and Zaramud are then told to go to Delhi and get the money from Rahul. They leave with AGM Bhai’s ATM card and in a 5 star hotel encounter Pooja (Soha Ali Khan). But wait – there is more! AGM Bhai also has an associate in Delhi – the diminutive Amit Mistry as Kuber and his giant side-kick enforcer called “Dimple” (only in Delhi!!!). There are briefcases full of dollars, a match fixing tycoon JC (Vinod Khanna), thefts, bets, thrown matches, money doing a run around and round, and enough cricket references to keep everyone happy. But the best one is all about hitting a century – 99 just does not cut it!
Mumbai is the hub of many a movie, but there is a recent resurgence in films based elsewhere, and 99 does more justice to Delhi than the recent OLLO did. The usual disdain that Mumbaiyyas have for the Delhi wallas was hilariously presented – Poore Delhi mein do hi naam hain – ek Pooja ek Neha! And then when Soha’s associate turns out to be Neha, Khemu asks her with an absolute straight face if she is Pooja – and she is!!! The movie provides a barrel of laughs from deft writing and situations that do not rely on the slapstick, but rather on great timing. When Amit Mistry is trying to get a cell phone call through to AGM Bhai and both go on a rapidly rising pitch of hellos one cannot help but laugh out loud. Similarly, AGM Bhai’s maiden attempt to leave a message in response to a firangi female voice has the ferocious criminal saying “take care karna” at the end!
The film is peppered with such hilarious moments that keep propelling the story forward. And the cast does a tremendous job of delivering these lines with aplomb and with perfect timing. Kunal Khemu is right on target as the young yuppie wannabe, and Cyrus Broacha is just right as the butt of jokes (only of couple of which descend to the toilet level – but not crude). Boman Irani delivers after a long time as the compulsive gambler with a method. Mahesh Manjrekar makes a fierce crime boss as AGM Bhai, but the inept gang around him makes sure the movie stays on a light note. For me the show was stolen by Amit Mistry and the silent and ineffective “Dimple”! Soha Ali Khan was decent in a brief role, as was Simone Singh. The veteran Vinod Khanna needs to come back in more films, he has been missed!
As I was watching 99 I was reminded of the classic “inept crime plus comedy” capers like Big Deal on Madonna Street and its recent remake Welcome to Collinwood.
The ineptness of some of the criminals in 99 – like Kuber and Dimple and AGM Bhai’s gang, matches what we saw in the safe cracking gang assembled in Collinwood. 99 fits right into the mold of films like these. The genre is similar, but Krishna DK and Raj Nidimoru (the directorial duo) carefully forge their own path with 99 by making the proceedings completely madcap. Instead of all the criminals getting their just desserts (as we saw in the aforementioned films), there is clearly a good-bad demarcation in 99 and only the truly bad meet a bad end. Money appears and disappears in a series of coincidences that do not frustrate one, but make one want to cheer. There aren’t many layers to peel away, no philosophy of life to ponder, no real romance to interrupt the flow of the film. By following a light and upbeat tone throughout and by infusing rollicking comedy into the proceedings 99 achieves what OLLO did not – a lot of entertainment.
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