By Rachit Raj

It is a joy watching actors like Nawazuddin Siddique, Raghuvir Yadav, Ila Arun, and Anurag Kashyap inhabiting an absurdist world without any inhibitions. These actors light up the screen by their sheer presence on-screen. But when they come together for a shoddily crafted, amateurishly written and directed film like Ghoomketu, one is given a quick reminder of how decorating the screen with talented actors cannot account for mediocrity in other departments of filmmaking.

Written and directed by Pushpendra Nath Misra, Ghoomketu chronicles the journey of Ghoomketu (Nawazuddin Siddique), a Masters in Hindi literature, as he travels from a remote village in Uttar Pradesh to Mumbai with a dream of becoming a writer in the Hindi Film Industry. With limited resources, Ghoomketu has thirty days to make it big while his family files a report to find their son which lands on the table of Inspector Badlani (Anurag Kashyap) a lazy, corrupt cop who has not solved a case in fifteen years. He, too, has thirty days before he is transferred from his current police station. Thus begins an absurd story of dreams and detection, hampered by inconsistent, confused writing and direction.

Right after the scene where are introduced to Inspector Badlani, a song chronicling the life of this character plays out against the backdrop of his journey until he joined the police force. The song, reminiscent of ‘Life Mein Fair Chance Kiska’ from Mard Ko Dard Nahi Hota, is unfunny and used so uncreatively that it leaves no impact on the viewer. The same is true for the narrative of Ghoomketu, too.

Misra knows that the story he is telling is not a particularly new one. Stories documenting the struggles of a newcomer in Mumbai have been done to death, yet it is a theme that can always find something new if imagined smartly. Sadly, Misra puts too much effort into making the narrative unique while never realizing that the intrigue of a story like this lies in its humane touch, not a character breaking the fourth wall or guest appearance by popular faces as imaginations of Ghoomketu’s incomplete scripts.

In doing that Ghoomketu is deprived of a soul – an innocence, that was the most enigmatic part of a film like Luck By Chance or that terrific short-film by Anurag Kashyap starring Vineet Kumar in the anthology Bombay Talkies. Told as chapters from a book on film-writing by a local tabloid editor titled How to Be a Bollywood Writer in 30 DaysGhoomketu is never sure of its tone and larger thematic ambitions.

At one point it becomes a cop-chase drama, before going back to being a story about Ghoomketu’s struggles, and finally becoming a family drama that uses a strange bird analogy to represent the conflict of Ghoomketu’s relationship with his father. Ghoomketu is a volatile narrative that seems to be obsessed with jumping from one theme to another, trying to maintain a larger light-hearted tone through a couple of attractive performances.

Siddique as the titular Ghoomketu and Raghuvir Yadav as his short-tempered father are especially good in this film that seems more interested in actors who are in a guest appearance than those who are essaying characters that are central to the larger narrative of the film’s story.

Towards the end Ghoomketu seems to be making an interesting point about big actors like Amitabh Bachchan borrowing lines from nameless struggling writers and making them their own. That alone could have been a story that makes searing statements on the issue of plagiarism and copyrighting (something that the Hindi Film Industry has had a long struggle with). But sadly the film uses that interaction palely and does little to find any depth or sense in what could have potentially been a terrific conflict.

Ghoomketu is a film that has the gift of an incredibly talented cast, but somehow it crumbles under its obsession of being different from the generic template of “strugglers’” movies and that ends making it a mockery of its central premise. We are not shown enough of Ghoomketu’s struggle, nor are we shown enough of Inspector Badlani’s professional mediocrity. The film is unconfident of its own story and hence keeps diverting into undercooked subplots. This could have been an enjoyable comedy starring an actor who has championed the art of playing a cold, heartless mafia, but it turns into an insignificant, largely unfunny caricature of the superior, more insightful “struggle” narratives that the Hindi Film Industry has churned over the years.