Fancy Being Cyrus?

With a growth in independent cinema, or ‘indie’ cinema as it came to be known in India, in recent times, there was a parallel growth in the number of directors and producers, venturing into this unknown territory. Producers were required to fund on a smaller scale and sit back, keeping their fingers crossed alongside keeping faith in the directors who were visualizing meaningful cinema. Of course, the growth was minimal and slow paced, but was having an impact on the minds of the multiplex audiences, if not others. And, of course, the birth of multiplexes in the country is what facilitated the sprouting support for such films, in the first place.

Amongst the various new films created, one remarkably successful film, one of the few English language Indian films, was belted out by debutante Homi Adjania in 2006. The film also was a first in many other ways, including the fact that it was Saif Ali Khan’s first English film. The actor, who otherwise was generally sidelined in other films, due to his co-stars, was greatly applauded for his role in Being Cyrus – which also came to be known amongst the finest performances of his career. With a powerful cast, a kind that performance centric films are made of, Being Cyrus was a breath of fresh air, with an equally powerful script at a time when the story was being given more importance, in comparison to the star cast of the film. Adjania had some of the finest actors of the country, facing the camera, with names like Naseerudin Shah, Boman Irani and Dimple Kapadia on the list. Only when everything seemed to be in place, the motive – correct and the attempt was honest, was a spectacular film like Being Cyrus born.

Based mainly across two locations, Panchgani and Mumbai the film revolves around the dysfunctional Sethna family and their innumerable problems amongst themselves and otherwise. The elder son of the family, Dinshaw (Naseerudin Shah) is a famed sculptor and lives an eccentric life, away from city life in Panchgani with his equally eccentric wife, Katy (Dimple Kapadia). Cyrus Mistry (Saif Ali Khan) comes wandering, strangely to their doorstep and claims to be an ardent fan of Dinshaw’s work and convinces them for an apprenticeship. Once they oblige, Cyrus somehow, willingly or not gets absorbed in the broken bits of the Sethna tale and plays the role of the narrator. Katy, being her promiscuous self makes advances towards young Cyrus and sees a pawn, useful to her, in him. She instructs him to go to her father-in-law, Fardounjee (Honey Chhaya) who lives in an extension of the residence of the younger son, Farookh (Boman Irani) and collect a stash of money that he apparently had. In the process, Cyrus learns of the little game that Katy had been playing, but Cyrus also plays along, also sneaking in on the rollicking extra marital affair that Katy shares with her brother in law – together who were trying to get rid of the entire family, to inherit the property.

The plan that Katy and Farookh had masterfully chalked out goes for a toss, thanks to the anti planning that Cyrus keeps plotting on the way, pretending to be involved in every step. The somewhat family drama soon turns into a psychedelic roller coaster ride, thanks to the brilliant editing and dialogues. And, some exceptional illusionist sequences. A little later into the film, it begins to take the form of a murder mystery, so beautifully crafted within the powerful script, alongside the an eccentric performance delivered by Manoj Pahwa as the Inspector. Without giving away much of the plot, climax and anti climax – this film is worth a watch, especially if you’re trying to figure out what ‘indie’ cinema is all about.

However, on a closing note – one very important learning from the film.

‘Once the game is over, the king and the pawn go back into the same box.’

Naman Saraiya

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