Ab Tak Chhappan was released in 2004 when I was in class 10. Directed by Shimit Amin, who was practically unknown to the masses till that time, the film’s USP was Nana Patekar as the encounter specialist and Ram Gopal Varma’s name as the producer which brought people to the theater but as it turned out, the film’s greatest USP was it’s never seen before storyline and treatment. Obviously the film wouldn’t have been the same without the seasoned performances of the entire cast but it is safe to say that it was at-least five years ahead of its time. There have been many efforts to duplicate its power and reach over the years by varied directors but none so far have been able to reach the sheer novelty of this film which also makes this film one of the masterpieces of recent years which could stand hand in hand with the likes of Ardh Satya.
The story revolves around Sadhu Agashe (Patekar), an encounter specialist with Mumbai Police and how he goes about doing his duty and the ordeals he has to face through his tenure as a cop. The film starts off by showing a confident and invulnerable Sadhu who is at the top of his power. All his colleagues except one love him and respect his judgments. His team is soon joined in by a new recruit who quickly turns into one of his most able aids. It is also the time when he is wiping clean the underworld of two rival gangs at one time. The two leaders of the gangs get at him in varied ways. While one seizes the opportunity of placing one of their own as Sadhu’s boss, the other uses sweet talk and cunningness to get close to Sadhu and make him to do their wish. It is during this period that his wife is brutally murdered and Sadhu for once exposes his vulnerable self.
The very first encounter sets the mood for what is about to follow. While there is plenty of action in the film, none of it is the traditional out of the world action sequences that we are used to. The action is made to look as real as is possible. The ensuing drama leading up to the action sequences is grueling and accentuates the action sequences to a great level. Take for instance the sequence where the newbie is taken on his first assignment by Sadhu and ends up shooting two dreaded gangsters. This sequence is the best example of how well the buildup aids the final result. The film is also loaded with some sensational surprises. The way Sadhu’s wife is murdered is one of them. Revathy was playing a darling of a wife until she is killed off and the film completely changes it’s mood and gear from that sequence onwards.
Like most RGV films, Ab Tak Chhappan doesn’t have any songs. In this context it is actually a really good thing. The editing is sharp. While the camera dwells hither tether, the result is always convincing and interestingly enough the viewer is always in the best place and position to see the story unfold. The performance by the whole ensemble cast is superb. None of the actors under-performs and some just hit a home run. I was particularly impressed by the restrained performance of Nakul Vaid as the newbie who grows up to save the day for his boss by the end of the film. His eyes speak volumes and he is never far from the action. Yashpal Sharma as the cop who has a beef with Sadhu is tremendous. We know him to be a great actor and this performance is exactly what I expect of him.
Nana Patekar leads from the front with his powerhouse performance. Inspite of all the great performances, this is his film from start to finish. His acting is so natural that at many junctures, I find it difficult to believe that he is actually acting and therein lies the greatness of his performance. He is upright in the action sequences, he is strong in the dramatic one and looks vulnerable in his weak moments. He even has some light moments to share here and there. This is a complete performance from an actor who has taught us to expect the world from him and yet never disappointed us.
Overall, Ab Tak Chhappan is a terrific entertainer and a sensational piece of art. People looking for gritty thrills as well as edge of the seat stuff will be served well by this film. The power packed performances and never seen before screenplay only adds to the charm of this delightful entertainer. This is the kind of film which has really taken the Hindi film industry from the stagnation of masala potboilers and set it on its path to finding meaningful entertainment in the recent years. Watch it and be enthralled.