Direction: Anurag Kashyap
Cast: John Abraham, Ayesha Takia
There is a fine line between intelligence and indulgence and with ‘No Smoking’, director Anurag Kashyap crosses it often. It’s not like he has made a rank bad film, but ‘No Smoking’ is so influenced by graphic novels and Neil Gaiman books, that understanding its plot’s many forward and backward movements would be out of the scope of the layman.
John Abraham is K, a chain smoker, about to lose his wife Anjali (Ayesha Takia) who is fed up of his addiction, which he doesn’t want to kick. When he does decide to stop it, he consults a Baba (Paresh Rawal) for the same, his life becomes a living hell. All his nightmares come true and he moves between the real and fantasy world with such alarming smoothness he loses control over both.
That is the basic story. It is in the depiction of the worlds and the way they collide that Kashyap’s influence by the fantasy of graphic novels surface. The settings are bizarre, the colour is dark (wholly in shades of brown and black), and the goings-on kinky just stopping short of running into censor trouble (this is where his intelligence takes over).
Despite, the statutory warning that smoking is bad that flashes at the beginning of the screening, the underlying message that John’s character experiences is that giving up or asking for help can be bad not only for your bank balance (to the tune of Rs 21 lakhs) but also for your soul, which might have to forever exist in a macabre purgatory full of other wretched spirits. This cannot be good news for the anti-tobacco lobby.
The only one really called upon to act is John Abraham, who is good. Ayesha Takia, looking awfully rounded, sleepwalks through her part. Paresh Rawal is okay and Ranvir Shorey, who can normally be counted on to perform decently, disappoints greatly.
The one plot device that Kashyap perhaps overlooked is to have every character connected to the other, sometimes in multiple ways, as they are in Neil Gaiman’s books. If he had done that ‘No Smoking’ would have been even more abstruse and obscure, an effect he seems to have been looking for.