Kabeer Kaushik’s Maximum, oscillating between docu-drama and action thriller, lands up somewhere between the two and nowhere in particular. The story is predictable, the screenplay lacklustre and the characters undercooked. There was potential for the film to be a taut cop drama -- despite the seen-before encounter specialist angle -- but it ends up as a cop-out. You’ll be counting the minutes before the film reaches culmination, one that’s far from satisfying.
The story’s set in 2003, a time when Mumbai police had clamped down on the underworld. Leading the pack is Pratap Pandit (Sonu Sood), a famous encounter specialist who dominates the force. This is post-Ab Tak Chhappan (although certain elements, like a don calling the shots from abroad and Mohan Agashe playing commissioner, remain), and pre-Dhoble Mumbai. On most nights, the cops head to a bar after a hard day’s work, dance girls providing them with entertainment. Life is good.
Pandit’s authority is challenged not by corrupt politicians or powerful dons, but a disgruntled senior officer Inamdar (Naseeruddin Shah). Pandit was part of Inamdar’s team in his early years, and although there are no scenes to show it, you are to assume that Pandit stepped on his toes to attain the position of power he’s in now. Inamdar convinces the Anti Terrorist Squad chief to have him join the former’s team, and plots Pandit’s downfall with help from a young builder and the commissioner.
All of this takes up the pre-interval portion. The problem is: you see it all coming. The concept of a cop going up against another cop makes for an interesting premise, but the films finds it hard to shirk off the ‘yet-another-Mumbai-based-cop-drama’ tag, mainly because you more or less know how things will progress. It doesn’t help that Inamdar’s character is sloppily sketched, and it’s the rare film you’ll find Shah to be unremarkable in.
Kaushik takes forever to establish plot and a few interesting characters (a north Indian politician played by Vinay Pathak, and a young journalist played by Amit Sadh), and every time you expect the film to grab your attention, the narrative slips off. The director, whose debut film Sehar is as watchable as his second film Chamku is forgettable, shows command over the craft in individual scenes. But when it comes to narrating a cohesive plot, Kaushik falls short. It would be interesting to see what the director can do with a better script.
Sood is impressive as Pandit, his limited histrionics ideal for the demands of the role. Pathak is refreshingly cast as a politician with a sense of humour. The most impressive actor of the lot is Sadh, who plays a young out-of-town political journalist grappling with the city. Sadh has tremendous screen presence and makes a mark with a subtle performance.
Ticking all boxes you expect from a film belonging to the genre, Maximum ends up as a ‘me too’ among many RGV-inspired films in the last few years, even though that may not have been the intention. Sadly, there was potential.