There have been a lot of movies in the past where we have seen a clear distinction between heroes and villains. It’s not that difficult to draw the line between good guys and bad guys. Usually, the hero is at the center of the story with some conflict to solve or an act of revenge to exact. Whereas villains are mighty and powerful, they do very little themselves and let their goons take care of the rest. But what about movies where you constantly have to change your perceptions as to who’s good and who’s bad? The latest Bollywood movie, “Kuttey,” works on that very premise and confuses the viewers every step of the way. Directed by Aasmaan Bhardwaj, the movie dives into the story of a converging point that witnesses three different groups of people coming together under one agenda. Almost like a novel unfolding, the plot unravels in three different chapters, along with a prologue and epilogue. The art of storytelling is masterfully executed as well.
With an ensemble cast, the movie gives apt screen time to every subplot and character to keep the strings attached to the overarching script. If you are familiar with the works of Vishal Bhardwaj, then you will notice numerous similarities in the way Aasmaan assimilates his father’s filmmaking styles. From banging music and vulgar language to the fearless portrayal of a brutal reality, the movie does not falter from speaking its truth. Moreover, the actors in the movie remain true to their roles and do justice to the story rather than fighting for the limelight or overdoing their parts. However, we feel the role portrayed by Naseeruddin Shah went a little unseen and unutilized. Considering how the movie ends, we wish we could have seen the great Narayan Khobre put things right and make precise use of the reputation that precedes him.
It won’t be unfair to deem Gopal the unconventional hero of the movie. Played by Arjun Kapoor, Gopal is a man who suffers at the hands of his superior officers and his never-ending greed. The quintessential corrupt cop, he glides through life without a care in the world except for where his money is coming from. It does not take him even a second to defect to another faction and sell his loyalty at a fair price. In an array of wild characters, Gopal definitely sets a benchmark in terms of selfishness and greed. Despite being married, the viewers’ first impression of him is that of a cheating scumbag. What comes next is worse, as he begs for his life and takes on an assignment to kill his former employer. Maybe he’s not so much of a hero after all. He has neither the guts nor the power to take a stand for himself either.
Another proof of his cowardice and tiny ego is shed when he picks up the gun to shoot women who innocently throw him into a pool as a joke. Unable to bear others laughing in his face, Gopal does not hesitate to shoot every single one of them and satisfy his massive macho spirit. We don’t think we need to mention how corrupt he is because that is the foundation of it all. Some may say that he is a cunning man owing to his precise plan to loot a van filled with cash. But we believe his luck lets him come out alive after the plans go awry. Gopal is lucky enough to survive a bullet wound and various encounters thereafter to remain the last man standing. He walks away with all the cash he finds without having to split it with anyone. Nonetheless, karma comes into play and makes him pay for every innocent life he took and every promise he broke. The cash he so proudly takes away is rendered meaningless as we finally learn the timeline of the movie, which is set in 2016 when India underwent a stage of demonetization.
From the moment she is introduced in the story, Pammi’s character seems a bit frivolous. What is she adding to the plot? How does her character maintain relevance in the story? We find such questions constantly on the tip of our tongues. Portrayed by Tabu, Pammi comes on screen only to tell tales that have been told a thousand times. However, kudos to Tabu’s acting prowess as she captures the audience’s attention while narrating those stories. At the end of the day, that is the true sign of a great actor. Pammi is shown as a powerful and independent female police officer. She knows her influence and never wavers in using it to her advantage. She takes every challenge head-on. Nonetheless, her primary motive is always her own benefit. From money to more power, she will do anything to come out on top.
It is easily understandable what makes Pammi who she is. Dominated by men, the career that she has chosen mostly involves powerful male figures. To make her own place and be taken seriously, she had to adopt a serious and mean demeanor. Up until a certain point, we believe she is not like another titular “Kuttey” and can redeem herself with a kind gesture. In the climax, when Lovely, a drug lord’s daughter, kills someone in a confrontation for the first time and shakes herself up, she crumbles into Pammi’s arms for some comfort. It might be so that Pammi’s maternal instincts kick in, and she keeps a hand on Lovely’s head to give her the reassurance she needs. In a split second, we see Pammi pick up her gun and kill Lovely in her own arms. She does so to have one less person to share the money with. This made no sense, as there was a very small possibility of Pammi even making it out alive and having the money all to herself. But as her parable with a frog and a beetle teaches us, she does so to remain true to her character. A person can do anything in life, but they cannot change the foundation of their character no matter how hard they try.
Lovely is shown as an ordinary young girl who has a powerful father. It seems like an oxymoron since a daughter of a drug lord cannot have a normal life. She craves a life where she does not need a bodyguard everywhere she goes. Or where she can travel by bus and train whenever she likes. Even in her childhood, nobody teased her or flirted with her, as everyone knew not to mess with the powerful Narayan Khobre. Actor Radhika Madan blends into Lovely’s role beautifully. She is a little bubbly and talkative as well. Moreover, like a spoilt brat, Lovely gets whatever she wants. But she has to marry a wealthy man’s son instead of the man she loves. We don’t know how they fell in love, but the impossibility of their romance is palpable. Lovely falls for one of the goons who work for her father, Danny.
Their lives get entangled in the mess when they overhear Gopal hatching the plan to steal cash from a van. They feel that the money can help them elope and start a new life away from their families. It is crushing to see their hopes and dreams come crashing down as misery hits them with everything it has. Lovely has to see her love die right in front of her eyes. And when she hopes to get some comfort from Pammi, all she gets are some bullets in her stomach. We wish Lovely and Danny could have had a better end than this. But, as they say, the show must go on.
Nobody could have played Paaji’s character better than the awesome Kumud Mishra. He has done some brilliant roles to date, but the way he adapts himself to a role like Paaji is a treat to watch. A little awkward and a little hesitant, Paaji has the qualities of a good second in command. He follows orders and does what he is told. With little cunning of his own, he has trouble making up his mind or resolving firmly to do something. Being a true gentleman, he tries to save Laxmi from the evil police inspector and gets to remain alive in return. Laxmi sees how troubled and conflicted he is and hands him a bomb to detonate when he cannot take his superior’s tantrums anymore. It shows how clearly Paaji wanted to get out of the system, but his responsibilities towards his family and his oath kept him in the force.
In many ways, Paaji is the underdog of the whole story. He is the link that connects the three different factions and the only sane mind of them all. He is not after money or power, despite having a wife and kid to feed. His inner turmoil torments him day and night. However, his inability to make a decision or bear strength never lets him pick a side. His superior officers make him take bribes, steal drugs, and even stand guard as they cheat on their wives without remorse. Paaji has been a police officer for many years, and his turning point comes when he decides to join the Naxalites in their fight against the tyranny of powerful and corrupt people. However, he is not able to make good on that promise either, as he dies before he can do any good for them or himself.