By Troy Ribeiro
Film: “Qaidi Band”; Director: Habib Faisal; Cast: Aadar Jain, Anya Singh, Mikhail Yawalkar, Anna Ador, Cyndy Khojol, Peter Muxka Manuel, Prince Parvinder Singh, Sachin Pilgaonkar and Ram Kapoor; Rating: ***
Director Habib Faisal’s “Qaidi Band”, inspired by real life events, is a sugar-coated tale.
Citing the case of Machal Lalung, the longest arrested undertrial, the film revolves around a group of young individuals who are arrested for various crimes. Due to lack of funds and family support, they are left to rot behind bars.
By happenstance, the Superintendent of the prison Mr. Dhulia (Sachin Pilgaonkar) — to entertain a politician during his visit to the prison — orders his prisoners to form a band. After duly auditioning, a group of seven — three girls and four guys: Bindu, Tatyana, Sange along with Sanju, Rufi, Maskeen and Ogu — are selected to perform.
On the eventual day, the attending media, enamoured by the group’s performance before the politician, broadcasts the show. And soon, their song, “I’m India”, grabs the attention of the masses. They become a phenomenon.
How this group then uses their popularity to gain freedom forms the crux of the tale.
The plot is simple, straight-forward and by mid-point predictable. Nevertheless, its enduring appeal stands on three sturdy legs.
Firstly, it captures the nasty atrocities meted out to the undertrials in a no-nonsense and unpretentious manner. Also, the camera work along with the fine production values is noteworthy. The film has the confidence and a sense of purpose that warms the hardest heart.
Its second strength lies in the performances of the cast. The seven protagonists may not be conventional heroes. But their portrayal of their characters is realistic and believable. The depth they bring to what could have been a one-dimensional character is impressive.
Anya Singh and Aadar Jain wow us as Bindu and Sanju with their sincerity. Though Aadar has a strong resemblance to his cousin Ranbir Kapoor, he does manage to leave an imprint with his histrionics.
Ana Ador sways us as Tatyana with her dancing and sense of rhythm. Cyndy Khojol impresses us as Sange with her resolute strength and defiance.
Mikhail Yawalkar, Peter Muxha Manuel and Prince Parvinder Singh as Rufi, Ogu and Maskeen are charming. Their demeanour and personality suits their character and each one of them portrays their role convincingly.
Sachin Pilgaonkar, as the dictatorial Superintendent of Prisons, is refreshingly honest. He makes you cringe and hate him when he tries to extract information from the family of the undertrials or tortures those who are captured after escaping from the clutches of the police.
Ram Kapoor as an eminent lawyer, Mr. Vachchani, lacks the persona and is the only odd one among the cast.
And finally, of course, there are the songs — the lyrics are strongly worded and magnificently structured. And they seamlessly integrate with the narrative.
What is missing in the plot are scenes that emotionally elevate the tempo of the narrative. Though it has its fair share of melodrama, the exuberance needed for a musical is missing. Also the song at the climax is a super let-down. But overall, the film works as an expressive drama.
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