Banners: Viacom 18 Motion Pictures, Emmay Entertainment Production
Producers: Viacom 18 Motion Pictures, Monisha Advani, Madhu G Bhojwani, Nikkhil Advani
Director: Ranjit Tiwari
Cast: Farhan Akhtar, Diana Penty, Ronit Roy, Gippy Grewal, Deepak Dobriyal, Ravi Kishan, Rajesh Sharma, Inaamulhaq, Manav Vij, Robin Das, Manoj Tiwari, Virendra Saxena
Writer: Aseem Arora
Music: Arjunna Harjaie, Rochak Kohli, Tanishk Bagchi
This prison-break film, which marks the debut of director Ranjit Tiwari, is a compelling portrait of five inmates and their dreams, their vulnerabilities and their great escape plan from Lucknow Central jail. Loosely based on a true story of a music band (Healing Hearts) formed by prisoners, Lucknow Central is packed with a talented ensemble cast and manages to be tense and gripping, despite its weak screenplay.
The film opens with Kishan Girhotra (Farhan Akhtar), a librarian’s (Robin Das) son from the small town of Moradabad, who has big dreams of becoming a singer and forming his own band. In order to accomplish his dream, he records a demo CD, which he wants to give his idol – a top local singer (Manoj Tiwari).
However, Kishan is crushed when his CD is stomped upon by an IAS officer. In a fit of rage, in front of witnesses, Kishan threatens to kill the officer. The next thing you know, the IAS officer is murdered and Kishan is thrown behind the bars on charges of murder. He is sentenced to life but the IAS officer’s family is pressing for the death sentence and has appealed to the High Court for the same.
Meanwhile, Minister Pawan Singh Chaturvedi (Ravi Kishan) wants to conduct an inter-jail music competition and wants a band from the high-security Lucknow Central jail. Kishan too is transferred to this high-security prison, which functions under the stern rules of jailor Raja Shrivastava (Ronit Roy).
With the help of NGO activists Gayatri Kashyap (Diana Penty), who works towards reforming prisoners, Kishan finally accomplishes his dream of forming a band along with four other inmates – Parminder Gill (Gippy Grewal), Victor Chattopadhyay (Deepak Dobriyal), Purushottam Madan Pandit (Rajesh Sharma) and Dikkat Ansari (Inaamulhaq). However, the band is nothing but a farce as Kishan and the inmates are using it as an opportunity to plan their great escape. Whether these five prisoners, all in for life, manage to escape or not forms the crux of the film.
The plot is indeed intriguing, and Lucknow Central had the potential to become one of the best prison dramas in Bollywood but the screenplay has too many loopholes and fails to exploit its central theme to its full potential. It is baffling how, out of so many prisoners, Farhan Akhtar’s simple character manages to ferret out inmates with just the right skills for a jail break.
Also, there are plenty of scenes that call for cinematic liberties that are way beyond the realm of logic.’ Having said that, the film does have some very good punch lines and witty dialogue.
The flawed script is compensated by the treatment of the film and fine performances. Ranjit Tiwari makes an impressive and promising debut. Also, what really works for the film are its endearing characters. The inmates with their small dreams outside the four walls of the jail touch a chord and your heart goes out to them when they try to face the bitter truth and take solace in each other’s company.
Being a film that revolves around a music band, the music of Lucknow Central could easily be considered one of the film’s strengths. The Meer-e-karawan song is soul-stirring and haunts you long after you have stepped out of the cinema.
Performance-wise, Farhan Akhtar delivers a memorable performance. However, one wishes he had held on to that desi twang that he brilliantly shows in the beginning of the film. Ronit Roy as the mean jailor is fantastic. Gippy Grewal is brilliant. Deepak Dobriyal, as usual, impresses with his act. Rajesh Sharma and Inaamulhaq play their parts well. Ravi Kishan as the sarcastic minister is just too good. Manav Vij looks menacing and is convincing in his role. Diana Penty is good. The rest of the cast support the film well.
Verdict: Lucknow Central is a good-hearted film with fine performances that make it a decent watch.