So, this movie came out of left-field. BEING CYRUS is a fantastic new movie made largely by members of the Hindi film industry. It combines hysterically, typically Indian humour with Western production values and has a style all of its own. There are no dancing girls, "item numbers", or hackeneyed star-crossed lovers storylines. We also do not have that particularly sickening aspirational unreal depiction of ex-pat life that so many Bollywood multiplex films contain. (I am thinking here of HUM TUM, KAL HO NAA HO etc.) Instead we have an odd-ball thriller. Yes, yes, here we have that rare thing: a Hindi movie that has us crying with laughter, but also requires some intelligence to figure out the plot, and is all wrapped up within 90 minutes!
Cyrus Mistry is a young man who, together with his sister, had a miserable childhood as an abused orphan. In adult life he becomes an apprentice to a sometime celebrated, but now pothead recluse sculptor, named Dinshaw Sethna. This crumpled romantic is married to a fading and frustrated beauty called Katy, who dreams of quitting their "bhoot bangla" ramshackle country villa in Panchgani and returning to life in Bombay. Katy sends Cyrus on a mission to Bombay to sweet-talk Dinshaw's rich but ill-treated father, Fardounji Sethna, at which point he also comes into contact with Dinshaw's fat, capitalist brother Farouk and his young bride, Tina, not to mention, through twists and turns of the plot equally absurd and hillarious, Police Inspector Lovely.
The film has an outrageously funny script penned by first time writer-director Homi Adajania. I usually hate voice-overs but Cyrus' narrative is sharp, witty and memorable, and much praise must be given to Saif Ali Khan, up till now a conventional Bollywood heart-throb, for pulling off such a role. In addition, the supporting cast is superb. We have Naseerudin Shah - a class act - playing Dinshaw with such subtlety. With a flick of his eyes in an interrogation room he can reduce us to hysterics. Dimple Kapadia sends herself up as Katy, Honey Chayya is wonderful as Papa Fardounji, and best of all, we have the Peter Sellers of Indian cinema, Boman Irani, as the explosively bad-tempered Farouk.
But this is not just a funny, well-plotted movie. The depiction of Indian life is also spot on - from the people sleeping on park benches or on the road side in practically every frame; the road-side arguments between residents in the apartment building; to the way in which as you sit down in the cafe you immediately get served a cup of warm chai. Small details, but rarely seen in the glammed up dream-world of Bollywood movies. The director also uses the camera with imagination and fluidity to great comedic and dramatic effect - everything from bizarre Lynch -like dream sequences to dog POV shots. Finally, the film is greatly enhanced by Brit, Jon Harris, and has a faint air of the comedy freeze-frame stuff we saw in SNATCH.
What it all boils down to is that you should not dismiss BEING CYRUS because it is a Bollywood movie. The best way to think of it is as an English-language black comedy/thriller that is set in India. TRANSAMERICA may be more worthy, but I'd be hard pushed to recommend anything funnier on UK screens this weekend.
BEING CYRUS opened in India, Dubai and the UK on March 24th 2006.