A character-based drama with a meaty role for pout-queen Kareena Kapoor, “Chameli” tries for something fresh in mainstream Hindi cinema and succeeds in its chamber-like first half. Although the “one rainy night”-like encounter between a discombobulated banker and a cynical street hooker doesn’t deliver on a similar scale later on, pic still would make an interesting addition to Bollywod film weeks.
Stranded when his car breaks down during a torrential storm in south Mumbai, Punjabi yuppie Aman Kapoor (Rahul Bose), who is still mourning his wife (Rinke Khanna), gets into a conversation with cynical prostie Chameli (Kapoor). She spins him hard-luck stories, and Aman pays off her debt to pimp Usman (Pankaj Jha). But, when Usman is hospitalized after a fight, Aman falls foul of a corrupt cop (Yashpal Sharma), who’s handling the case. First half, set in a single backstreet, has an impressively concentrated, legit-like feel; when story moves to other locations, it becomes more conventional. Kapoor, recalling Hindi sex sirens of the ’50s, is excellent. Bose, however, is too nice by half to make his thinly backgrounded character work emotionally. Atmospheric lensing is first-rate. Pic was begun by late director Anant Balani.