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No Smoking

Director:
Anurag Kashyap

Writers:
Raj Singh Chaudhary (Story)
Anurag Kashyap (Story & Screenplay)

Cast:
John Abraham – K
Ayesha Takia – Anjali/Annie
Paresh Rawal – Shri Shri Prakash Guru Ghantal Baba Bangali Sealdah Wale
Ranvir Shorey – Abbas Tyrewala
Joy Fernandas – Alex
Sanjay Gandhi – Chacha
Kiku Sharda – Doctor

Country:
India

Language:
HindiEnglish

Release Date:
26 October 2007 (India)

Awards:
53rd Filmfare Awards (2008) Mumbai, India – Best Art Direction: Wasiq Khan (Nominated); Best CinematographerRajeev Ravi (Nominated); Best Special Effects: Sudeepto Bose (Nominated)

Ratings:
India: A
Netflix: 2.5/5
Rotten Tomatoes: 50% (No Consensus Yet)

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Technically, No Smoking fits the definition of a Bollywood film (at least according to the source of all information) in the sense that it’s a Hindi language Indian movie, but it’s not quite what us westerners have come to think of as Bollywood with the fantasy and the elaborate, colorful musical numbers. This is a different vision entirely.

I have to say that things didn’t get off to a very good start for me. The first thing we see is a title card that says something about “1000 people stop smoking every day by dying. Smoking kills.” Really? Thank you Captain Obvious, because I’m still living in 1952 and think that Camel cigarettes are good for my t-zones.

Then after some other preliminary business, there’s another title card with this bon mot:

To do is to be. – Plato
To be is to do. – Socrates
Do be do be do. – Sinatra

Yeah, that was clever when I first saw it in a bathroom stall 30 years ago. Actually, some sources trace this piece of graffito back to the legendary Kurt Vonnegut. Eventually the movie starts and things get better.

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John Abraham as K.

K (“Just K.”) is a successful businessman with everything going for him. He’s rich, good looking, has a beautiful wife, and he’s got a nicotine monkey on his back. He started smoking when he was just a kid and his bestie Abbas turned him on to cancer sticks, and he never looked back. One night while smoking on the street, K runs into Abbas and finds that he has quit smoking. K can’t believe this news, and tries to force Abbas to take one puff. Abbas refuses as if his life depended on it. I mean, brother man acts like K is trying to put a turd in his mouth.

Meanwhile K’s wife Anjali is getting fed up with his self-centered, egotistical ways and mostly his smoking. After both his friend and his doctor emphatically suggest that he go to the same program that they went to, K finally goes to look into it after Anjali leaves him.

Tracing the address to a musty carpet shop, K shows the shop proprietor the card his friends gave him, the man opens a manhole, and K walks down into a very surreal, imaginative, daydream/nightmare of a treatment program.

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Shri Shri etc. explains it all to you.

To say anything further about the plot would be to violate the great trust you have placed in me as your absolute favorite blogger. This movie is a bizarre mix of David Lynch, Terry Gilliam, and Slumdog Millionaire with just a pinch of Cabaret thrown in for flavor. There are images that will make you blink your eyes and run your player back to see them again, and then you’ll still say “What the freaking freakity freak was that?” Yes you will. In those exact words.

Apparently No Smoking bombed in its home country because the marketing led people to expect more of a lighthearted Bollywood film, but it appears to have developed a cult following internationally. Rightly so in my not so humble opinion, it’s not really like anything you’ve seen before.

Sort of…

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Turns out that No Smoking is sort of unofficially based on “Quitter’s, Inc.” the Stephen King short story that was one third of the 1985 movie Cat’s Eye. Or as it’s sometimes called quite awkwardly, Stephen King’s Cat’s Eye. Or is it Stephen King’s Cat’s Eye’s Retina’s Iris’s Nictitating Membrane? I’m just going to be lazy and go with Cat’s Eye.

I saw it years ago, but I thought I would check it out to compare and contrast. I’m not going to do a full on review since the “Quitter’s, Inc.” part is only a third of the movie. It’s actually the part of the flick that I had pretty much forgotten about. I remember Robert Hays walking on the building ledge and little Drew Barrymore and that garden gnome gone bad, but I had forgotten about James Woods trying to quit smoking.

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“Ooh, piece of candy…no, it’s a gun.”

The “Quitters, Inc.” segment is a more straightforward telling of the tale: Woods plays a heavy smoker named Dick who is convinced by a friend to go to Quitters, Inc., which apparently has a better success rate than the Schick Center. Of course the reason for this is because, just like in No Smoking, there are real and reasonably nasty consequences.

“Quitter’s Inc.” is an OK story, and Cat’s Eye is a fun diversion. My favorite story is the one with Robert Hays, my least favorite is the one with the cat vs. the Travelocity spokesman’s evil twin. Like I said, I’m not going to do a full review, but on my MB MST3K Scale I’ll give it a…

The Misplaced Boy MST3K Scale:

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Cambot

Getting back to No Smoking, it’s not a perfect movie, there’s all that nonsense at the beginning. It seems to come across to many as an anti smoking diatribe, but if you wanted to you could also find plenty of reasons to think of it as a statement against the Smoking Nazis that won’t let you smoke…anywhere…ever. The above mentioned Bob Fosse-esque moment goes on far too long and seems to be in there because somebody decided that a Bollywood movie needed a musical number.

The Misplaced Boy MST3K Scale:

Like I said, not perfect but well worth seeing.

crow

Crow

Closing Love Theme

Well, it’s not quite a love theme…but here’s how Goofy dealt with the same habit back in 1951:

A MISPLACED BOY WILL RETURN

in

“PRINCE OF DARKNESS” *

* If I don’t get too scared.

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