Business rating: 1 / 5 stars (One star)
Star cast: Ananth Narayan Mahadevan, Saurabh Shukla, Navni Parihar, Sunita, Chandan Roy Sanyal.
What’s Good: The performances; a few light-hearted scenes; the sensitivity with which the subject has been handled.
What’s Bad: The screenplay which leaves a lot to be desired; the leisurely pace of the narrative; the boring first few reels.
Verdict: Staying Alive is a sensitive film but it will find the going tough.
Loo break: A couple in the first few reels.
Watch or Not?: Watch it because it is a well-intentioned effort.
Shemaroo Entertainment Ltd.’s Staying Alive is a story of an unusual friendship that develops between two men who are admitted to a hospital after suffering heart attacks.
A middle-aged journalist, Aditya (Ananth Narayan Mahadevan), and an underworld kingpin, Shaukat Ali (Saurabh Shukla), find each other in the same room in the ICCU of a Bombay hospital. While Aditya has suffered his third heart attack, it is the first one for Shaukat. As the duo gets talking, Shaukat is initially dismissive of Aditya’s profession. But the gangster soon becomes friends with the journalist, who helps him in coming to terms with the fact that he (Shaukat), a don, is bedridden and helpless. Aditya uses many anecdotes from his previous visits to the ICCU to tell Shaukat that taking it easy is the only way to survive his new reality. Slowly but surely, Shaukat starts seeing meaning in Aditya’s argument and even decides to give up on his life of crime.
Meanwhile, Aditya’s wife (Sunita), and Shaukat’s wife (Navni Parihar) and son (Chandan Roy Sanyal) spend many nervous nights in the hospital’s waiting room, helping each other out in their time of need. The two wives even share personal facts about their marriages and develop a bonding.
When Shaukat Ali is about to be discharged from the hospital, he bids a tearful adieu to Aditya, asking his friend to meet him once he is also discharged. What happens then? Are Shaukat and Aditya able to meet? Does their friendship last?
Staying Alive Review: Script Analysis
Sujit Sen’s story about two unlikely people sharing a bond over long talks in a hospital is quite simple and interesting. His screenplay, however, has a lot of issues. The first few reels, where the characters of Shaukat Ali and Aditya are being established, bore the audience a great deal. Several scenes of the interactions between the two wives are repetitive and unimpactful. The angle of Shaukat’s rivals threatening him seems to have been added only to introduce a dash of conflict; but the attempt falls flat on its face. Moreover, the pace of the drama is so leisurely that unless the viewer is completely clued in to the long talks that the gangster and the journalist have, s/he will be bored. The climax, though emotional, leaves a lot to be desired.
On the plus side, the characterisation of Shaukat Ali is very interesting; his love for kebabs and his feeling of helplessness over being relegated to a mere mortal brings a smile to the audience’s lips. Several scenes between Aditya and Shaukat, where they talk about love, life and death, are well-scripted and taken. A couple of emotional scenes – including the one where Aditya suddenly falls sick – also leave an impact. There is a sprinkling of humour in the narrative that adds to the appeal. The well-written dialogues are another plus point of the film. However, overall, the script entertains and engages the audience only to an extent as it is uni-dimensional and quite philosophical because of which it may not catch the fancy of a large section of the audience.
Staying Alive Review: Star Performances
Ananth Narayan Mahadevan is competent as the affable and courageous journalist. Saurabh Shukla shines in the role of the gangster. He makes the audience laugh and cry and makes his character eminently likeable. Sunita is alright as Aditya’s wife. Navni Parihar, as Shaukat’s worried spouse, and Chandan Roy Sanyal, as his dutiful son, fill the bill. Khan Jehangir Khan, Ranjana Sasa, Sanjay Swaraj and others offer average support.
Staying Alive Review: Direction & Techincal Aspects
Ananth Narayan Mahadevan’s direction is effective. He is able to handle the subject with sensitivity and never goes overboard. However, in spite of the running time of the film being a mere 91 minutes, the script is unable to sustain the audience’s interest throughout. The film has no songs. Background score, by Sanjay Chowdhury, is alright. Rajkumar K.’s cinematography is functional. Editing, by K.P. Praveen, is sharp.
Staying Alive Review: The Last Word
On the whole, Staying Alive may be a well-made film but it is meant more for the festival circuit. Commercially, it will turn out to be a below-average fare, the lack of awareness of the public about the film and its poor start only adding to its tale of woes.