About the story: Dus Kahaniyaan means "ten stories", and that’s exactly what this film is: ten short movies, simply strung together, without a frame story or an inner link – except maybe the fact that all of them deal with human relationships of all kinds and have a surprising twist in the end:
2. High on the Highway
4. Strangers in the Night
7. Sex on the Beach
8. Rice Plate
10. Rise & Fall
Sanjay Dutt acts in the tenth story (Rise & Fall) as the gangster Baba. His confrontation with Nawab (Suniel Shetty) and two children allegorizes the eternal vicious circle of the rise and fall of people of power.
Whether you like this film or not depends very much on the question whether you have use for this sort of anthology. Producer Sanjay Gupta himself was in no way sure whether this concept would work, and it was Sanjay Dutt who finally encouraged him: "Actually this wouldn’t have happened without Sanju", elaborated Gupta in an interview. "I had grave doubts about the film before starting it. I felt it’d be a huge risk. I spoke to Sanju and he gave me the example of his dad, Sunil Dutt. He told me that if Dutt saab had the guts to make Yaadein where one man is talking for three hours then we can definitely attempt 10 films in one film. He advised me to just get on with the film. That really motivated me."
And so you get ten films for the price of one plus a star cast which alone makes the fan’s heart beat faster. I didn’t mind at all that every movie stood for its own; I liked this simple concept, including the succeeded kaleidoscope pictures in the beginning and the title song in the end where nearly each and everyone of the stars in Dus Kahaniyaan had gathered. (That Sanju could not take part in the clip as it was shot in August 2007 while he was in jail after his Arms Act sentence was really unfortunate but Gupta nevertheless gave him the place in the video he deserved. After all, Sanju is not only one of the stars in the film but also the presenter – yes, at that time he still was part of White Feather Films.)
Some of these ten short movies are real little pearls which I surely will watch more often. Certainly not to this category belong High on the Highway (Jimmy Shergill, Masumi Makhija) and Sex on the Beach (Dino Morea, Tarina Patel) which are so weak that I save myself (and you) further details. As good average I would classify Matrimony (Arbaaz Khan, Mandira Bedi), Strangers in the Night (Mahesh Manjrekar, Neha Dhupia), Zahir (Manoj Bajpai, Dia Mirza) and Lovedale (Aftab Shivdasani, Neha Oberoi, Anupam Kher) – all four of them well played and convincing, partly also because of very surprising twists.
Very dear to my heart are Puranmaashi (Amrita Singh, Minissha Lamba), Rice Plate (Shabana Azmi, Naseeruddin Shah) and Gubbare (Nana Patekar). The story of Puranmaashi is getting to me, and hopefully Amrita Singh will return to the silver screen more often in mature roles like this one. Watching Nana Patekar with his balloons as a reconciliation gift for his wife is pure joy – this man is simply wonderful. And Shabana Azmi and Naseeruddin Shah shine in the loveable little story about a rice plate which makes an ultra-orthodox Hindu woman think over her prejudices against Muslims.
And now the last of the ten films, Rise & Fall. Well, in my opinion even this movie belongs to the category "average". And this is not the fault of the story; the overlapping (and finally amalgamation) of two plots – the children (directed by Hansal Mehta) and the gangsters (directed by Sanjay Gupta) – is a thrilling idea, and Sanjay and Suniel are totally convincing in their performances (it is reported that during the shooting Suniel was so moved by Sanju’s elaborations about friendship and fraternity that he burst into tears). But somehow you always get the feeling that somewhere you have already seen all this (and that’s not only because of the cross-reference to Gupta’s debut film Aatish with its two main figures also called Baba and Nawab). While Gupta in all the other Dus Kahaniyaan films he directed went completely new ways – away from his former stylish gangster movies – he backdrops here onto his old tracks. And considering the loveable little parts of Naseer and Nana, it’s more than bitter to notice that Sanju was not allowed more than a rehash of his former gangster roles. If Rise & Fall shows something clearly then it’s the fact that Sanju’s separation from White Feather Films and Sanjay Gupta can only be for his own better.
At the end I, for once, want to make a comment on the soundtrack. For the great poet Gulzar wrote a poem to each of the ten films after Gupta met him and told him about his concept; as Gulzar said, "It would be interesting to make my poetry a reflection of the visuals in his short stories. I feel the scope of poetic expression is expanding in our cinema. All I insisted on was that Sanjay get the actors from the different stories to recite the poems and not have me do that." And so it was done, Gulzar’s poems where recited by the stars of the film (among them Sanjay Dutt), combined with subtle music. It’s a really beautiful addition to a very good soundtrack which remained longer in the charts than the film. For Gupta’s courage to take a risk was not rewarded, the film flopped at the box office. As I said, as a whole it surely is attractive only for people who like anthologies, but some of the short movies are beautiful enough that at least I do thank Gupta for having taken the risk – and Sanju for having encouraged him.
Produced by Sanjay Gupta; Directed by Sanjay Gupta (1, 4, 5, 9, 10), Hansal Mehta (2, 10), Apoorva Lakhia (7), Meghna Gulzar (3), Rohit Roy (8), Jasmeet Dhodi (6)
110 Min.; DVD: Eros, English Subtitles (including songs)