I usually tune into the channels that play the new movie trailers. Invariably, I would think – “Hey, hold-on. This one looks like a rip off from <Hollywood movie name>. Upon the movie’s release, I would have confirmed that. Johnny Gaddaar didn’t look like an exception. The trailer started off like a heist movie and looked and felt so hollywoodish. I just couldn’t spot the original. After a long time, yesterday, I sat down to watch a Bollywood flick. The next two and a half hours was a power ride I didn’t expect.

Newbie Sriram Raghavan sure looks like he knows his world cinema. He draws a lot of inspiration in the technical aspects from a lot of directors. From Jean Luc Godard’s jump cuts to Stanley Kubrick’s match cuts, from Quentin Tarantino’s use of room space to Soderbergh’s style, from David Lynch’s editing to Alejandro Inarittu’s lighting, the film reminds you of everything. But Raghavan has got his basics right: ” Get the content right, form follows”. With this in mind, he has made such gripping a script, that it makes you wonder if this is the best Bollywood thriller of recent times.

The movie stars off like a regular gang-heist-gone-awry flick with much (intentional) predictability. What follows is told in such a riveting fashion that it feels like something that Bollywood has never tasted before. All the leads have done justice to their roles with no overplay. This proves one thing to Bollywood – you don’t need stars when you have such taut characterization. Sriram Raghavan says NO to all essential Bollywood elements- the item number, revenge, duet songs in exotic locations that come out of thin air and a dozen others. Carefully avoiding sentimentality that plagues even what-could-have-been-great Bollywood thrillers like Humraaz, Raghavan handles emotions without cloying us. I wonder why he chose Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy for the music. He could have used less expensive music directors.

Raghavan pays homage to all the stalwarts of the thriller genre throughout the movie. From James Hadley Chase’s books to Bachchan’s Parwana and Dev Anand’s Johnny Mera Naam. There are numerous references to other directors as well. With a few more scripts like this and a style of his own, Sriram Raghavan can proudly call himself a leading member of the “Indian New Wave”.

In summary, Johnny Gaddaar is a one-man film that is a huge relief from the regular ‘thriller’ films that are made on the constraints of market sales and star values. It has set a new standard for other aspiring directors. Let’s hope it is broken soon !