In the literal "middle" of "Nowhere".
Just one of several disturbing images.
Arghhhh, our brain! OUR BRAAAAAIN! While Paresh Rawal's evil Guruji was busy severing souls from bodies, the PPCC's brain was slowly coming unhinged. We tried to keep track of everything in this film but eventually resorted to just listing references we recognized, because we couldn't make any sense of it. Filmi Girl's review has much more sense than this one, so we definitely recommend you read hers for intelligent commentary on this film. If you'd like instead our baffled "???!" take, then read on.
No Smoking, Anurag Kashyap's supremely surreal film, tells the story of "K" (John Abraham), a chain smoker who, after being threatened with divorce by his wife (Ayesha Takia) and encouraged by his friend (Ranvir Shorey), joins a radical rehabilitation program called the Laboratory. The Lab's director is Guruji (Paresh Rawal), and he is attended to by a wide variety of dwarves, giants, women in burqas and ghostly, whispering apparitions. "K"'s rehabilitation is a sinister, soul-sucking, Stephen King-inspired experience which includes finger-chopping, abduction, random explosions and, in the coup de grace, literally imprisoning the soul.
When the PPCC wasn't laughing at the occasional moments of dark humor, we were crying from TERROR. Yes, PPCC reader log, yes. We are a wet blanket when it comes to surreal art, and feeling disoriented scares us. We spent so much time clinging onto the few, rare moments of logic and whimpering "Mommy!" that we had just no idea what the hell this movie was really talking about. It certainly wasn't talking about smoking. Or was it? Filmi Girl reckons it was about homosexuality, or other subversive behaviors. Or was it about the Holocaust? Or the death of the individual in society? OW, MY BRAIN!
Reminiscent of the club scene in Trainspotting.
Reminiscent of The Matrix.
This was scarier than that surreal art installation movie thing we saw at the Tate Modern that one time - but that was just five minutes, and we were surrounded by people, and it was just about some women who keeps walking up stairs that never end. But this! THIS! This was two freakin' hours of Dalí and dimensions changing frame to frame and scenes restarting in different ways and, occasionally, just icing on the crazy cake, old Hitler speeches disguising themselves as doorbells or mobile ringtones. *sob* Then there were moments of American Psycho and American Beauty. And, of course, K for Kafka! Arghhh, what does it all meeeean?!
We have no idea. We've always been absolute crap at surrealism since we're just so baffled by it. Indeed, No Smoking will perforce have limited appeal, as its aesthetic is so alienating and its point - whatever it is! - is buried so deep in confounding, sometimes contradictory allusions and references. As a friend of the PPCC once remarked about a favorite scarf of ours: It raises more questions than it answers! Are smokers Fascists, or the people who ban smoking? Is K's soul tied to his family, his passions or himself? Why is Ranvir Shorey in a perm and cross-eyed?
Paresh Rawal was fabulously bizarre.
Was this movie really about THEM?! We have no idea.
We have to really hand it to Anurag Kashyap, for his extraordinarily unique vision, and to John Abraham, for being in this film. Poor John gets written off by us and our friends for being a pretty pin-up boy, and yet, if we really pay attention to him, it's clear that he's invested quite a lot of thought into his roles and he's desperate to push the envelope. This film, which is about as weird as can get, is a great thing to have made. We can't really say we enjoyed it, but we definitely appreciated it.
Now we just need to go bury ourselves in a comfortingly familiar, undemanding 1970s masala movie to cleanse ourselves of the weird! (And, yes, we HAVE to see Dev.D now.)