Taxi Number 9211
2006Director: Milan Luthria
Cast: Nana Patekar, John Abraham, Sameera Reddy
few years back, Samuel L. Jackson and everyone’s favorite whipping boy, Ben Affleck, starred in a film about a conflict between a pompous, wealthy young lawyer and a grizzled salesman with marital problems. They meet through an auto accident, after which Affleck’s character abandons Jackson’s character, but leaves behind some important documents. Retrieval of said documents is vital to Ben maintaining his job and lifestyle, but now they’re in the hands of an unhappy Jackson. The two engage in an ever-escalating feud, as both seek revenge for each other’s perceived offenses. Eventually, when all is nearly lost, the two reassess their priorities and learn valuable lessons about life. Huzzah.
Because Changing Lanes was eminently forgettable tripe, it may take the viewer a while to recognize the similarities to Taxi Number 9211, but make no mistake, the more recent film is just decorated regurgitation. Names, locations, and occupations are changed . . . silliness of characters, forced endings, and uneven acting are, unfortunately, not. Taxi Number 9211 was made in Mumbai (formerly Bombay), and represents a reputed shift in Bollywood production choices away from musicals (loosely termed) and toward American-style moviemaking. Unfortunately, the filmmakers, in this instance, chose to follow a poor (albeit representative) example of Hollywood fare. Not all the conventions of Bollywood are stripped away, however, and the mix just adds to the general ridiculousness of the film.
Raghav Shastri (Nana Patekar) is an impoverished cabbie who constantly bickers with his wife because of his financial troubles. Shastri has a sharp tongue and is quick with an open-handed slap to any who dare challenge him, traits that cost him 22 different jobs in the past 15 years. He works hard for a living, and his financial strain just adds to his gruff nature. Our story begins when Raghav picks up a passenger who appears to be his polar opposite. Jai Mittal (John Abraham), Shastri’s fare, is an impossibly good-looking young man who also happens to be the sole heir to his father’s considerable fortune. Jai’s playboy lifestyle has made him tabloid fodder, and rendered him the subject of a contentious battle over his father’s will (despite being the only blood relative). Affleck . . . I mean Mittal, is in a rush to get to a court date when he calls for Shastri’s cab.
Jai’s backstory is followed immediately by a ludicrous musical scene that plays like the love-child of a rap video and the inevitable music number from an ‘80s teen comedy. The music-video is about five minutes long, totally unrelated to character development after ten seconds, and would have been hysterical if it weren’t so irritating. Recently, Taxi Number 921 was nominated for the “Rave Scene in The Matrix Reload” memorial award for the film with the most uncomfortably long and pointless musical portion. (The RSITMR award is, sadly, one that fails to make the Oscar telecast.) Once the musical tangent is complete, the film is set into motion when Mittal berates and bribes Shastri into recklessly speeding through the crowded streets of Mumbai. When Raghav’s compliance to Jai’s commands results in an accident, Jai bribes a police officer and flees the scene, leaving Raghav stranded with a badly damaged vehicle. Shastri thinks he’s been left with no recourse for payback, until he notices a silver key (one that opens the safe deposit box where Jai keeps his copy of his father’s will) resting on his cab’s backseat. Sound familiar? Yeah.
The two men engage in a battle of tit-for-tat that escalates at a comically implausible rate. In the span of about a half-hour, Mittal ruins Shastri’s marriage and Shastri tries to kill both Mittal AND his girlfriend (separately!). When not actively trying to murder one another, Shastri and Mittal square off in staring contests in which the apparent objective is to look the most impetuous. Abraham, a wildly successful Indian male model, just seems like he’s auditioning for The Young and the Restless. Eventually, the two bad boys learn valuable life lessons at a rate that’s just as improbable as that of their moral decline. They kiss and make up, give each other presents, and everyone lives happily ever after. Huzzah.
Please do not waste your time with this movie. From the grating score to the shoddy acting to the ridiculous plot, it’s terrible. Redeeming qualities are few and far between and thoroughly outweighed by an avalanche of crap. This should come as no surprise, for as the saying I just made up goes, “a rip-off of an already-bad film does not a good film make.”
By: Kevin Worrall
Published on: 2006-03-08