Prague has an interesting premise, I’ll give it that. Debutant filmmaker Ashish Shukla and (relatively) newbie screenwriter Sumit Saxena have lots of cool ideas and they don’t want to take the commercial route – and on that front this is a neat little experiment. The film could have been equally fascinating had it not supplanted cool ideas with tacky execution.
Starring the underrated Chandan Roy Sanyal (Mikhail from Kaminey), Prague is a psychological thriller but it merely goes through the motions of a thriller without actually delivering the thrills. It starts off on an intriguing note, and promises some sort of a cerebral exercise about a man who is so caught up in insecurity that his only way to have a relationship with someone is by feeling guilt. No doubt, this is high concept for a desi film, and that an indie film released in theaters, despite having an unsellable story and no big stars is probably triumph enough.
Sadly Prague is not the indie film to lead a revolution, because it’s just not a good movie. One would expect a movie about a man on the verge of a breakdown to be zany and gripping. Unfortunately the film winds up being as exciting as a brochure of Prague. In every scene it feels like the filmmakers used a ‘Moviemaking for Dummies’ guidebook found at a library and missed an opportunity to make a truly great movie with style and atmosphere worthy of its premise.
The problem is that Prague neither caters to the mainstream crowd nor the indie enthusiasts. The former would rue the lack of item numbers and Sallu bhai while the latter would always be 30 minutes ahead of the characters. Any moviegoer who has watched half a dozen psychological thrillers would crack the mystery 15 minutes into the film, and to hang around for two whole hours knowing what’s going to happen next becomes an extremely tedious jaunt. Even formulaic and predictable thrillers can be enjoyable if they manage to invest you into the characters, but Prague fails to do so.
Sanyal is talented but not particularly interesting here, and he tries too hard, unlike his co-star Elena Kazan (from John Day) who is comparatively effortless. The characters are very poorly written and they turn out to be just as one-dimensional, ludicrous and unconvincing as the events that they are participating in. The dialogues range from wannabe to cringe inducing. In one scene an idealist stoner dude lends some great advice to his friend - 'If you fuck a girl, she may or may not end up with you. But if you mindfuck a girl, she will definitely end up with you'. These gems would probably work in films like Pyaar Ka Punchnama (which Saxena co-wrote).
The only element of the film that offers a welcome break from the dreary, amateurish and clichéd story grafted onto a two-hour ad for Prague is the music (Atif Afzal, Varun Grover). Director Shukla gets all the music montage scenes just right, but every single one of those scenes are so tonally detached that they seem like they belong in another movie. Pity.
(First published in Firstpost)