A forgettable prison-break

Daniyal Zahid does not find much to commend in Lucknow Central

A forgettable prison-break
It is unlikely that many of you would’ve seen last month’s release Qaidi Band. For those who have, Lucknow Central would be an upgrade on the budget, profile, cast and screenplay in parts, and a nosedive on the music – which, for films centered around that very art, was always going to be crucial – minus Meer-e-Kawran, of course.

Both Qaidi Band and Lucknow Central are loosely based on a true story from 2007, when a Superintendent of the Police in Lucknow Central Jail started a prisoner reform initiative through music, which resulted in Healing Hearts, a band that eventually became a nationwide sensation.

The minor add-on in Lucknow Central is the storyline merging the feel-good take with a full-on prison break.

However, Lucknow Central is no Shawshank Redemption or even Teen Deewarein. It couldn’t even become ‘Rock On 3Jailhouse edition’, since the band in Lucknow Central isn’t really a band and remains a pretext.

Kishen Mohan Girhotra (Farhan Akhtar),a Muradabad boy, aspires to be a musician and have his own band one day. Despite being told that “small town folks aren’t meant to dream big” he won’t compromise on anything. He simply won’t settle for something less than being a renowned musician whose name is chanted at concerts.

Diana Penty's look from Lucknow Central

As his musical struggles continue, he gets framed for murder, ending up in Muradabad jail with a life sentence – which is gradually challenged and Kishen is set for a death penalty trial.

NGO worker Gayatri Kashyap (Diana Penty) is working on prisoners’ habilitation and is tasked by the Inspector General Police to form a band in Lucknow Central Jail.

Kishen, who Gayatri knows from his time in Muradabad jail, is moved to Lucknow Central Jail where he vows to help put together the band for the inter-jail music competition in Uttar Pradesh.

As he overcomes in-prison power dynamics and groupings, all the while settling into the new surroundings, Kishen finally musters Dikkat Ansari (Inaamulhaq), Victor Chattopahdyay (Deepak Dobriyal),Purushottam Pandit (Rajesh Sharma), Parminder Trehan (Gippy Grewal) and patches up a band – the front for his prison-break strategy.
Farhan Akhtar fails to live up to the billing and expectations - starting with his complete failure to pull off a small-town boy

Neither the escape plan, nor the development of the band into one that would eventually play at a competition – the two pillars of the entire script, one would’ve thought – is given any attention, with none of the developments shared.

One would’ve forgiven keeping the details of the escape plan from the audience, had there been an earthshattering twist in store.

This doesn’t mean that there are no twists. There are at least a couple – or so the filmmakers would want you to believe – since you’d probably be able to see them coming even outside the cinema hall.

The only strengths that the film’s script has is the in-prison bonding. While characters are not given any room to develop, the growing relationship between the band members is aptly depicted. What is also gripping, and in line with the theme, is the criminals’ interaction with the outside world and how they find solace inside the prison walls. But unfortunately all of this drowns in the backdrop as the storyline zooms in on D-Day when the music competition and the prison break are scheduled to coincide.

A still from the song 'Kaavaan Kaavaan'

While Lucknow Central boasts some of India’s most capable acting talents in Rajesh Sharma, one of the soundest supporting actors any script can rely on. There is Deepak Dobriyal, who has done a wide array of crucial roles; Gippy Grewal, the Punjab singer turned actor who perfectly reenacted the character assigned to him; and Ronit Roy, who played the badass cop for the umpteenth time. But the film was always going to rely on Farhan Akhtar. And that’s where he lets the film, and himself, down.

As per script, Kishen Mohan Girhotra was a crossover between the roles Farhan has played in Rock On, Luck By Chance and Bhaag Milkha Bhaag. But he fails to live up to the billing, and expectations – starting with his complete failure to pull off a small-town boy.

Not only does his accent go all over the place throughout the movie – he could watch Humayun Saeed in Punjab Nahi Jaungi as an example of consistency –the dress designer doesn’t help Farhan either.

Once you find it hard to believe that Farhan Akhtar is a dreamer from a humble background, you wouldn’t care much for those dreams either.

The only loophole you’d want to see in a prison-break film is the one where the protagonists eventually escape from. That slit unfortunately is found in the script, which leaves the writing engrained on the prison wall.

Don’t waste your money to watch Lucknow Central on the big screen. Wait for the DVD, if you’re a huge fan of Farhan Akhtar – or indeed prison break junkies, or fans of musicals, with half-hearted escape plans and a single truly great song.