Writer-director Sudhir Mishra?s Yeh Saali Zindagi is the most twisted love story you?ll see this year. There are so many characters, sub- plots, voice-overs, flash-backs, intrigues and counter-intrigues that you will need a master-guide to keep it straight.
The film is much too long, indulgent and exhausting but if you?re willing to work with it, there is considerable fun to be had.
Irrfan Khan plays Arun, a somewhat shady fixer, who works with the equally shady Mehta, played by Saurabh Shukla. I couldn?t quite figure out what business these men are in but it seems to be some combination of real estate, money laundering and generally thuggish operations.
Arun falls in love with Priti, played by Chitrangda Singh, but doesn?t find the time to tell her so she gets into a relationship with another man.
Meanwhile, Kuldeep, a criminal-trying-to-go-straight, played by Arunoday Singh, is having relationship troubles of his own. His wife is vehemently against his occupation but passionate about him.
There?s also assorted thugs, corrupt politicians, corrupt policemen and even a smooth criminal with an intriguing passion for fashion.
What works here is the writing, especially the deliciously wicked dialogue written by Manu Rishi and Mishra.
There are some killer lines and a liberal use of choice Hindi curse words ? it seems like no Delhi-based film can work without that. Mishra has great affection for his characters. Each one gets a little detail that defines him. So Mehta?s password on his computer is: Main Shayar Toh Nahin. Mishra also finds the vein of dark, droll humour that runs through a gangster?s life. So in the midst of a kidnapping operation, Kuldeep is summoned to his son?s school because his son has beat up another child and there is a lovely scene in which Mehta is threatened by
rivals as he lies naked on a massage table.
After they?ve left, he tells the masseuse to continue because, yeh toh hota rehta hai.
The trouble is that these terrific moments are buried in too much plot and too much chatter. It?s almost as if the director was bursting with a hundred stories and decided to tell them all at once.
Yeh Saali Zindagi needed to be shorter and less flabby. I also wish that Arunoday and Chitrangda were more forceful actors - thankfully Irrfan Khan, Saurabh Shukla, Sushant Singh and a host of other strong performers ably prop them up. Eventually then, Yeh Saali Zindagi doesn?t hit all the high marks it sets for itself but it provides enough crackle to keep you entertained. Check it out.