Banner: Yash Raj Films
Producer: Aditya Chopra
Director: Habib Faisal
Cast: Aadar Jain, Anya Singh,
Writers: Habib Faisal, Sanjay Sharma
Music: Amit Trivedi
So far, 2017 has not been very kind to Bollywood, or maybe vice-versa! Either way, movies with high expectations have bombed at the box office and the tough-to-please audience has not spared even the biggest stars. In the middle of this hit-and-flop see-saw comes the unique concept of Habib Faisal’s Qaidi Band.
Produced by one of the biggest banners in the industry, Yash Raj Films, this film is a refreshing surprise, considering it does not have any of the trademarks of a studio famous for love stories. But this is not a first, the collaborations of Faisal and YRF in the past, in films like Ishaqzaade and Daawat-e-Ishq, have brought out the de-glam side of the production house. And just like his previous films, Faisal has made another strong film.
Qaidi Band introduces two newcomers, Aadar Jain and Anya Singh. We have seen debutants choose glamorous roles for their first outings but these two are a breath of fresh air. While the performances are raw and need some finesse, these newbies adapt quite well to the rustic storyline, which is the actual winner here.
Written by Faisal himself along with credit given to Sanjay Sharma, the film is about a group of undertrials who have been awaiting their date with justice for years while getting used to life in prison. The first half of the film is nicely portrayed as you are introduced to the central characters and shown the non-glamorous prison life they lead.
You see how they do business, how they have their ‘arrangement’ with the cops on the inside, to do little things like run a small beauty parlour or to heat cold food. One day, they are told by the Jailor (Sachin Pilgaonkar) that they will be forming a band to celebrate Independence Day. A fun round of ‘Prison Idol’ auditions is held and the team is selected, with Sanju (Aadar Jain) and Bindu (Anya Singh) as the lead singers of the band.
A little predictably, the entire team is full of young, almost innocent, people hoping to be free soon. They bond immediately and form a solid band, impressing not only the politicians who come to watch them on I-Day but also the media invited on the occasion. Their performance goes viral and they become an Internet sensation. But, alas, this somehow interferes with their chances of release and the group tries to escape to get their own brand of justice. The second half of the film shows the escape and what follows.
Qaidi Band is not an elaborate film and doesn’t pretend to be one either. While the movie does its best to follow the well-written screenplay before the interval, typical Bollywood melodrama and exaggerated emotions towards the end leave you disappointed. The love story between the two main characters is obvious and the treatment amateurish.
But the film carries a social message which makes you think about undertrials, many of them innocent, who have had their freedom snatched from them and who cannot get it back for various reasons. It also shows how having connections and money can manipulate someone’s destiny in our country. And while the message is important, the preachiness and saintly protests in the end are a tad too long to digest in the era in which we live.
Now, one of the main aspects of the film, its music. Since the Qaidi group uses their songs to convey the message of their freedom, music plays a very important role in this movie. Composer Amit Trivedi has proved, once again, that he can make a marvellous tune out of anything, even a plastic bucket, which is what he did in the dominant song I am India. The other tracks are also very passionate, showing the hunger of the prisoners to break away. The climax of the film is a rock performance with another epic number Junooni, but its impact is smothered by the drama between the main leads on the stage.
As for the performances in the film, let’s talk about the newcomers, first. Aadar Jain hails from the prestigious Kapoor family and has acting in his DNA (Seriously, his voice is uncannily like his cousin Ranbir Kapoor). Though he hasn’t made a thrilling debut, he turns in a decent performance for his first film.
Lead actress Anya Singh outshines everyone with her power-packed performance in a de-glam role, which not many debutantes may have chosen. The supporting cast, consisting of the band members, is also strong and complements not only the main actors but also holds the story together. The surprise package is veteran actor Sachin Pilgaonkar, who manages to go from his usual affable self to a comical baddie, and effortlessly so!
Verdict: Qaidi Band is a unique film that is worth paying good money to watch.