Filmistaan can be summed up in many ways. One will be that it is a small film going for huge laughs and succeeds in them but at the same time aims for huge drama but falls apart when doing so. Sunny (Sharib Hashmi) lives by watching films and giving auditions. He needs the help of his roommate to even pay his mobile bills. But films are not only his first love, they are his life. Films may not feed him but he inhales and exhales them and they are the reason for his existence.
The film buff Sunny is instantly identifiable. We gradually realize that the reality doesn’t make much sense to him and he views everything through a prism of cinema and pop culture. He has a film dialog ready for every situation and cinema is what brings him closer to most people. When he signs up as an assistant director for a documentary film and is informed they’ll be leaving after Holi, his reaction is,“Holi kab hai. Kab hai Holi?!” Sunny is wrongly kidnapped by a terrorist group who actually come for the American film crew he was shooting (the pun is actually used in the film to great effect) within the border area around Rajasthan. He’s left confined in a border village on the Pakistani side with a family until the terrorists manage to find the Americans. This situation coupled with the eldest son in the Pakistani family – Aftab – being into Hindi film piracy not only lends to some great original gags but also a friendship that till the end remains subtle.
Their friendship blossoms out of shared love for cinema and especially when Sunny ends up mouthing the dialogs of Maine Pyar Kiya when Aftab’s CD loses sound. The film tries to show an India-Pakistan parallel but only with marginal success. It works when it is done lightly using music and cinema – as the radio hums ve main chori chori and Sunny sings along yaara sili sili with it. It doesn’t when director Nitin Kakkar goes for some high drama in the latter portions of the film with one of the terrorists’ change of heart and Nehru and Jinnah’s speeches echoing in the background. A film that was balancing so well a heavy subject with light humor had no business suddenly morphing into a preaching lesson on unity and border-less worlds.
The performances make the film. Everyone from Sharib Hashmi playing Sunny to Kumud Mishra playing the grim terrorist Mehmood turn in great parts. Hashmi’s Sunny may ham it up a notch but that is by design to mirror his love for commercial Bollywood. And it works brilliantly in the situations he finds himself in. As Aftab explains, even a small film made from the heart will be a satisfying one. It may falter in portions but Filmistaan is one such small film made with heart.