Monday, February 16, 2015

Company (2002)

Director: Ram Gopal Varma
Writer:    Jaideep Sahni
Cast:       Ajay Devgan, Vivek Oberoir, Mohanlal, Manish Koirala
Language: Hindi

A slumdog named Chandu (Vivek Oberoi) teams up with Malik (Ajay Devgan), a middle-level enforcer for a criminal syndicate. Together they eliminate all their enemies, becoming the most feared gangsters in Mumbai, known as Company, before insecurity, anger and misunderstandings turn them against each other. Amidst all this, the South Indian  police commissioner Sreenivasan (Mohanlal) looms in the background scheming their downfall.

It is certainly the definitive gangster picture of Indian film industry aided no less by the fact that it is more or less inspired from what happened in Mumbai underworld. The director Ram Gopal Varma was at his peak and was able to fully utilize the stellar cast at his disposal. Acting is tremendously restrained and it is shot in what can be called stylistic minimalism. The soundtrack is also kick-ass and the narration when it comes gives us a sense of foreboding. Unlike Satya, RGV is not apologetic about making us root for two characters who are law-breakers and on top of that he gives us a very likable Police Commissioner who is out to get them. Another great thing about it is that it is not through the efforts of the Police that things go tits up for Company, but through very understandable sequence of events that can afflict any organization when undergoing change. Things begin to unravel when Malik starts concentrating more on his international businesses leaving Chandu to take care of Mumbai underworld. Insecurity about giving too much power to Chandu causes problems at ground level leading to misunderstandings. To compound all this Chandu doesn't become as ruthless as he should be to reflect the position that he occupies in the crime syndicate leading to conflicts with Malik. Sreenivasan makes use of the situation to bring Chandu to the other side of the law.

Vivek Oberoi makes a very assured debut with this film and Ajay Devgan, whom I consider to be a very limited actor, is also in surprisingly good form delivering some dry philosophical lines. It could have really went wrong but both of them are able to pull it off. Mohanlal made his Hindi film debut with Company and the fact that his character is a Malayalee in it helps him to use his own voice for the role. I don't know whether they shot the film sequentially but his fluency in Hindi also seemed to improve as it went on. Rest of the cast are also very good and the sparingly used songs help in ,moving the story. 

The relation of Malik and Chandu is supposed to be loosely based on the Mumbai underworld kingpins Dawood Ibrahim and Chotta Rajan respectively. The Pandit character in the film is also based on Dawood's confidant Sharad Shetty. Ironically Shetty was killed on Rajan's orders shortly after the release of the film in a case of life imitating art. Don't know whether any misunderstanding was involved mind. RGV later produced D, which is a prequel to events in Company, thus completing his Mumbai gangster trilogy which also includes Satya. 

To sum it up it is a near perfect film which could have had its running time cut down by a slight bit. To be fair the two and half hours running time is quite conservative for Indian films. I had seen it for the first time some ten years back and didn't expect it to be remain this good on a rewatch. RGV probably won't do a better film than this and the same can be said of Vivek Oberoi I guess. Got to say it is also miles better than Anurag Kashyap's bloated magnum opus 'Gangs of Wasseypur' which got good reception at Cannes where it was screened as part of Director's fortnight. 

Rating: 4.5/5