'Monsoon Shootout' has Nawazuddin Siddiqui playing an all-out meanie yet again, but is still worth a watch

Nawazuddin has made a fine art of channeling his dark side these days. One can say he is being repetitive but is it not fun watching a great actor being unabashedly bad ?

Nawazuddin Siddiqui holds a weapon in his palm and happily declares that he has ‘what it takes’ to kill a man. His fiendish smile backs him up. A few scenes later he’s seen seated on a bed in the reflection of a mirror, as his lady love dresses up while making post-coital conversation. This is, in fact, a scene from Kushan Nandy’s Babumoshai Bandookbaaz which released earlier this year. We see a similar scene in Amit Kumar’s Monsoon Shootout, too.

Just like his characters from Badlapur, Raman Raghav 2.0 or Babumoshai Bandookbaaz – Nawazuddin in Monsoon Shootout doesn’t even flinch before he sticks a fork into someone’s nose and tears through it. He makes passionate love to his paramour right after disembowelling someone. Nawazuddin has made a fine art of channelling his dark side these days. One can say he is being repetitive but is it not fun watching a great actor being unabashedly bad?

Monsoon Shootout is about a rookie cop Adi (played by Vijay Varma), who is accompanying his senior colleague (played by an unnervingly opaque Neeraj Kabi) on a ‘field trial’, all set to join the Crime Branch. As the name suggests, the film takes place during Mumbai’s peak monsoon. The director uses the Mumbai rain almost like a character in this film. Giving it a rare kind of visual heft that seems to suggest something deeper than what the frames say. Suddenly, the rain is no longer just an obstacle for the rookie cope to overcome, but an audience, too.  As he points his gun at a man (Nawauddin Siddiqui’s Shiva) on his first night of duty, it is whispering something to his ears. Is the man a gangster? Should he shoot him? What if he’s a civilian? What if he was just running away in panic?

One of the most satisfying bits of Amit Kumar’s debut film is how it manages to use popular tropes – a hard-boiled cop drama, a Mumbai noir replete with builders & the underworld – and rolls them all perfectly into a film. As Adi points the gun at the stranger trying to run away – he carefully maps out three scenarios and their aftermath in his head. The film questions whether fate is inevitable, and if any action to change it has already been predestined? And, if the decision has already been made, then is there any meaning to our actions right now? All these questions confront a young man with his finger on the trigger, the consequences flashing before his eyes.

Even as three versions of the events take place, we must choose for ourselves as to what is the most appropriate form of justice. Is there that much time for a cop to make a decision, as his own life hangs in the balance? And what if he shoots an innocent family man? Is there a right or wrong? Or do we, like always, have to figure out a path in the middle? Monsoon Shootout asks many, many questions even as the director dresses up the film as a homage to Ram Gopal Varma’s gangster films from the late 90s.

Many expletives are exchanged, many wounds and gashes open up and a lot of blood is spilled in the three alternate narratives. But the one thing that remains with us at the end of Monsoon Shootout, is a young man’s dilemma, his struggle with himself. In these harrowing times, it’s important to struggle with oneself.