Ekkees Toppon Ki Salaami admits that it is a political satire first up. In writing. The problem with the film though is it doesn’t stay true to its admission throughout. Ravindra Gautam milks all the emotion and manipulates his way through this attempted satire that is in some parts funny, even has an honest soul but remains one of those could-have-been films.
Anupam Kher plays Purushotam Narayan Joshi – one of the few sincere municipality workers left – whom we meet just before his retirement. The symbol of honesty and with a reputation backed by not having taken a single leave of absence in his whole career, Joshi, when he is not cleaning gutters or spraying mosquito repellents, tries to right the path of his two sons – Shekar (Manu Rishi) and Subhash (Divyendhu Sharma) – who are chalk to his cheese. Shekhar is a frustrated slacker and Subhash is a party worker under the corrupt Chief Minister Daya Shankar Pandey (Rajesh Sharma) much to the consternation of his righteous father. Joshi’s retirement joy though is short lived. While Joshi’s family is given multi-dimensional characterization, the politician and his cohorts including his muse Jayaprabha (Neha Dhupia) are mere caricatures contributing to the satire part of the film.
Ravindra Gautam litters his film with some good ideas. There is a reference to Adarsh Housing Society scam and there is a journalist named Arnav. The media-government nexus too is highlighted when Arnav is sitting across the Chief Minister’s office desk and the name board “Mukhya Mantri” on the table points to him. It’s not a coincidence that Joshi works in cleaning gutters and getting rid of the mosquito menace. On his last day, a small misstep by him is framed against the picture of Gandhi. When the sons are working towards giving that state funeral for their father, they literally climb under the manhole. Parts of this is manipulative and questionably staged. It is anybody’s guess that Gautam comes from the world of Indian television that lacks exactly in these aspects.
The writing is uneven but the film does elicit some fine performances. Anupam Kher is the obvious pick of the lot for his experience and his ability to sleepwalk (also literally) through this sort of a role. Rajesh Sharma is great as usual but the surprise is Aditi Sharma playing Subhash’s fiance Tanya and the Chief Minister’s speech writer. In the film’s best scene, the two Sharmas play off each other beautifully when the politician mouths off his views on an issue in the crassest language possible and Tanya retorts in a language suitable for press release. Pity the rest of the film hardly matches this level of control.
(An edited version of this was published in The New Indian Express)