There was a time when casting directors and auditions were unheard of; those who played small speaking parts in films were known as ‘side actors’ (now they are labelled ‘cameos’), and so many made careers playing roles like the villain’s sidekick, one-scene police inspector, doctor or servant (the once ubiquitous Ramu Kaka). Roles that were too small to be called supporting parts but sometimes led to a tiny photo in the corner of a poster, and a memorable line that gets recorded in movie lore, and even earns a fan following of film nerds.
Babulal Chandola or Sudheer (Sanjay Mishra) used be one such actor, who describes this tribe as “potatoes” who could be put into any dish. Hardik Mehta’s Kaamyaab is a tribute to those forgotten actors, whose faces are recognizable, but their names slip the mind. They mugged for the camera in numerous films, often uttering the same clichéd lines, which are now used to lampoon that kind of filmmaking and generate memes.
In a few nostalgia-inducing moments some of these actors appear in the film, playing themselves– Manmauji, Lilliput, Avtar Gill, Viju Khote, Ramesh Goel, Guddi Maruti, Birbal, Anil Nagrath. Avtar Gill has a longer comic track as Sudheer’s rival for the scraps thrown at the bit players,
Sudheer lives alone, forced by his daughter (Sarika Singh) to retire after a scandal, when he discovers through an interviewer, that he has done 499 films, and decides he must do one more. While he was away, the world of movie-making changed, and everyone, regardless of their seniority, has to queue up for auditions. Sudheer’s loud acting style is no longer in vogue. Still, he has the support of a former colleague, Gulati (Deepak Dobriyal), who is now a prominent casting director. Gulati mutters to his assistant, “Purane chawal se risotto banana mushkil hoga” but cheerfully pushes for Sudheer to reach his 500-film milestone.
While Kaamyaab has its melancholy moments and Sudheer cuts a sad, ridiculous figure with his floral shirt, old-fashioned wig and pipe, but the idea is not developed enough for an audience—particularly a generation not aware of old films—to understand or empathise with the character. The film is neither a satire, nor a tragedy and Mishra, a fine actor, is unable to do much with a role that does not really go anywhere, so he stays sullen throughout.
This could have been a better film, about all those who come to the city with starry dreams (like Sudheer’s pragmatic neighbour, an aspiring actress played by Isha Talwar) and how nobody cares about the ones who don’t make it. The fate of the almost famous, is perhaps worse than the utter failures—they were within touching distance of stardom when they stumbled.
Rating: Three Stars