Lucknow Central begins on a very promising pace. The film takes no time to come to the main crisis where an aspiring musician, Kishen (Farhan Akhtar) from Moradabad is trapped in a case, held guilty and eventually makes his way to Lucknow Central jail.
‘How can you be so crisp bro?’ I complained. My Hindi films-conditioned brains don’t take too well to such tight storytelling! But it looks like the filmmakers almost heard my inner voice and did exactly what a good Hindi film does; derail and distract! We can all see an impending concert at the climax but let’s beat around the bush before we eventually get there. Let’s indulge in gang wars, jail politics and a bit of flavorful manipulation to cajole sympathy for our Kishen bhaiya. Let’s beat him up, starve him and lock him up in solitude. But you have to give it to the writers for redefining irony. Contradictory things happen in the film leaving you all perplexed. After an hour of Kishen hammering his ‘band dreams’ into our heads, he acts dumb (mute) at Lucknow Central. Because hey, voice is the last thing one needs to be a singer! He even holds an inmate at a knifepoint and 10 seconds later, becomes his BFF! Wow! It’s almost as if the writers decided to rob the film of the seriousness that it demanded. At a very grave moment, Ronit Roy, the jailor, enters and questions the band’s preparation for a competition. He grits his teeth and looks all menacing. The atmosphere is tense. And then the band breaks into a song the lyrics of which take the tension to another level. They sing: Ek Kabootar, Do Kabootar, Teen Kabootar, Party Karne Lage Hain Saare Chat Ke Ooopar…! Farhan even does his own Woh Ladki Hain Kahaan?’ step from Dil Chahta Hain! #ThingsWeDoForPopulistCinema However, the film does have some genuinely good moments. I liked how it delved into the emotional journey of inmates as they visit their families on a brief parole. Some of the lines are funny as well. A judge speaking about justice gasps irritated, ‘Nyay na ho gaya, paua ho gaya….thoda aur, thoda aur, thoda aur!’ Lucknow Central packs some interesting performances, especially from the supporting cast. Ronit Roy and Ravi Kishan are in top form. They give gravitas to their lines and characters, creating just the right amount of disgust and danger. Deepak Dobriyal, Inamul Haq and Rajesh Sharma show promise yet again. Diana Penty aces one expression in the film. She looks mostly annoyed….with the script or her character, we couldn’t say! Farhan Akhtar is another weak link. He is too South Mumbai to pass off as someone from Moradabad. His emotions are intact but he falters big time in getting the dialect right, as he turns ‘time’ into ‘tame’ and ‘crime’ into ‘keeraaime’. His delivery is as superficial and contrived as his knowledge of taal in the film. He slips in “Taal Dadra” or “Taal Deepchandi” often, in case we forget his musical dreams. Howzzat for character consistency? His rustic background leading to a powerful, raspy stage performance made me feel that Lucknow Central could have been better titled as Rock Milkha Rock.