The visual design of ‘Monsoon Shootout’ triggers deja vu. Mumbai in the rains, with an obsessive killer on the loose, looks uncannily like a dress rehearsal for 'Raman Raghav 2.0'. Which, in retrospect, it probably was; considering that the film was made four years ago and just found release in Indian theatres. Still, this is an absorbing thriller with a multiple narrative perspective on a single violent encounter.
There are four possible ways that the story about a rookie Cop called Adi, and his confrontation with a gangster called Shiva, could turn out. Three of the scenarios diverge at a cul de sac, set at a slum, by the railway tracks of Mumbai. They all keep the film in motion. The last and shortest narrative has a supernatural quality to it, and so is outside the framework of this generic movie.
Adi’s boss is Khan (Neeraj Kabi). He is head of a Crime Branch and believes that bringing criminals to trial is a waste of time. Knocking them off in staged encounters is his solution to ridding the city of contract killers. Young Adi (Vijay Varma), having joined the crime fighting division under Khan, and with a memory alive of a father who was once a cop, isn’t exactly a pacifist. But he does believe in the concept of justice, and thinks that murderers should be given a fair trial, and kept alive - at least until they are convicted at the courthouse.
The notion of a single incident dramatically altering the course of an individual’s life is an old one in all fiction, but particularly suited to the feature film, because of the possibilities that the cinematic grammar of freeze frames, slow motion and fixed and recurring angles gives a writer and director. Still, the two perspectives that are composed in ‘Monsoon Shootout’, at the juncture of each possible narrative, are repetitive and static. The first is a close-up of Adi hesitating to pull the trigger when he has Shiva (Nawazuddin Siddiqui) in range. The second is a medium shot of Shiva about to jump over the wall at the railway tracks. Given the number of times these two shots appear in the film, director Amit Kumar could have developed slight variations in takes, angles and edits, to give us infinite possibilities of fine tuning in the process of human decision making.
What is presented in the film is the supposition that doubt, or indecision, in an action of such finality as shooting a man, is the element that decides the marksman’s destiny. This hypothesis doesn’t quite come through. The cloned angles look more like replays of a dramatic event on available television footage.
The best thing about ‘Monsoon Shootout’ are the top notch performances all around. Vijay Varma, in particular, as the cop who wants to be a dedicated professional like his father, and not just a shootout specialist like his boss, is perfectly cast. His incertitude is gripping. His persona is the glue to all glitches in the movie.
So here is a familiar Mumbai story of a megapolis inhabited by the usual suspects: killers, builders, bargirls and cops. Yet it is a tale told with several extrapolations about how split second decision making weaves destiny. At a tight 90 minutes, the movie is a decent watch.