With ‘Autohead‘ and ‘Megalopolis’, Rohit Mittal established himself as an adept storyteller. He continues the legacy with his latest release ‘Popcity’, a twisted morality tale of a gun for hire. Gulshan Kumar, played by a delightful Arjun Radhakrishnan is an impatient assassin who operates in the dark lanes of Mumbai. His life’s sole objective is to become the number one hitman in the city. So, when he’s presented with a rare opportunity to murder a high-profile journalist, he takes on the challenge head-on. But, as his personal and professional lives start to intertwine, he realizes that his best-laid plans can go awry, very quickly.
Arjun Radhakrishan is perfect as the self-obsessed killer. His mannerisms and body language help us get into the mind of the character. Gulshan is a hard man to like. He manipulates people around him, treats women like a piece of meat, and will go to obscene lengths to get what he wants. But, the director is aware of this and gives us a terrific stretch to make us understand his circumstances. When Gulshan meets his father, we’re made aware that he comes from a long line of criminals. Sometime into their conversation, his father passes out drunk after a night of dancing with a hooker and leaves before he wakes up in the morning. These scenes might not have made me instantly root for the protagonist, but helped me get around some of his actions and his inherent, impulsive ruthlessness.
Rohit populates his story with unique characters who help infuse humor into this gritty tale of survival. Gulshan’s mysterious contractors are three women clad in black sarees. Between assigning hitmen with deadly missions, they talk about going shopping on the weekend and the latest episode of a soap opera. His clingy ex-girlfriend, Roma played by Naina Sareen of ‘Eeb Allay Ooo!‘ fame uses dance as an expression to vent out her frustrations.
Voice-overs are a useful tool to convey the inner workings of a character, but when overdone can get tiresome pretty quickly. Sadly, that’s the case here too. We get voice-overs telling us how tired Gulshan is at one point.
Despite minor aberrations, ‘Popcity’ works as a noir comedy thanks to the unique characterization and fantastic performances from its leads.
‘Popcity’ premiered at the London Indian Film Festival on June 18, 2021.