If you are looking for the work of an auteur with an eye for detail and an insane talent for prose a la Saadat Hasan Manto and his Stars From Another Sky – which was really a different kind of expose – then you are at the wrong zip code. This one directed (oh was it?!) by Anant Mahadevan focuses on a bunch of stars from the late 60s Hindi film industry and aims to present a bastardized version of a set of events from that era.
Bastardization seems to be the single most important ambition for Anant Mahadevan in this film. Even the spelling of expose suffers in his hands to quell any hope of watching this with a straight face. The opening credits are a corrupt mashup of all James Bond credits sequences. Johnny Mera Naam becomes Reena Mera Naam and Satyam Shivam Sundaram becomes Ujjwal Nirmal Sheetal(!). No matter both these films arrived in the 70s while we are still in 1968. More importantly, there is an unforgettable Honey Singh version of Hai Apna Dil from Dev Anand’s Solva Saal. The director will have you believe that the whole industry at that time consisted of only these bunch of nine or ten people and everyone else is an extra – in films, in award functions, in after-parties. In one such after-party, Zara Fernandes (Sonali Raut, carpentered to perfection like every other actor here) mysteriously falls to her death and this unappealing premise forms the rest of the story. Or let’s say, rest of the film.
Himesh Reshammiya declares that he is a superhero when asked about his role in a film that already has another hero. And superhero he is. He doubles up – scratch that – triples up – scratch that too – quadruples up as a superstar, police officer, private detective and a lawyer. Paris is his choice of destination when he has to mourn or simply try to express some manpain that abandons him and his face in the last minute. He talks only in punchlines excreted without an iota of constipation and one still stands out for its sheer deadpan delivery – bistar mein neend ke alava main kuch nahin leta. He is introduced to us as a South Indian superstar and this has to be the first time when someone has metaphorically represented the Madrasi – a Tamil audience cheers loudly to his action on screen and he mouths – you guessed it – a Rajinikanth punch dialog in Telugu (bastardization alert). If you weren’t sold on the south Indian star bit, the backgrounds are festooned with posters of Pudhiya Paravai and Aayirathil Oruvan.
There are actually good actors around here like Irrfan Khan, Rajesh Sharma and Adil Hussain and fittingly have little to do. They are probably thankful that they only have blink-and-you’ll-miss-it roles and it is us who have to endure this one from start to finish. The Xpose is 2 hours of people walking slowly, looking at each other like they are in a competition of who is going to drop dead first, dressed like it is 2005 in 1968 Bombay which itself is lit up like present day New York City. It is presented neither as fantasy nor as pulp which could have been a better treatment idea for this. The stench of the cesspit here is ineffable.
(An edited version of this was first published in The New Indian Express)