Yash Raj Films’ Qaidi Band (UA) is the story of a group of undertrials who use music to highlight the plight of undertrials in Indian jails.
Sanju (Aadar Jain), Bindu (Anya Singh), Rufy (Mikhail Yawalkar), Maskeen (Prince Parvinder Singh), Ogu (Peter Muxka Manuel), Sange (Cyndy Khojol) and Tatyana (Anna Ador) are all undertrials in a jail which houses hundreds of criminals and other undertrials like them. The seven aforementioned undertrials are all either innocent people who’ve been framed for crimes they haven’t committed, or have long completed the jail term for their crimes but are still rotting in jail due to the slow movement of justice and the machinations of politicians, government, jail authorities and the faulty system.
As per the wishes of jailor Dhulia (Sachin Pilgaonkar), the seven undertrials prepare a patriotic song for Independence Day celebrations in the jail. The song, ‘I am India’, becomes a rage with the public, and the undertrials become overnight sensations with the youth of the country. After this, Sange and Tatyana leave the jail.
Sensing the sway the undertrials have on the youth, the minister (Raman Khatri) asks jailor Dhulia to make the undertrials compose more songs which he could then use to influence the youth to vote for him. Dhulia forces the five undertrials – Sanju, Bindu, Rufy, Maskeen and Ogu – to make more songs. So that they ‘work’ for the minister, the jailor doesn’t even let them appear in court to plead their cases. The five undertrials, already fed up of being in jail, some of them for crimes they haven’t even committed, rue the fact that their future is doomed. Even otherwise, they realise that they can’t afford lawyer Vachani who is the only one who can secure their freedom.
The five undertrials realise that they are going to be used by the jailor and so they hatch a plan to escape from jail by using music as the excuse. They get this idea when they collaborate (in jail) with a top music band, Middle Finger. Valley (Jitin Gulati) of Middle Finger tells them that if they were not in jail, they could easily have participated in a forthcoming rock concert and would have definitely won it. The prize money of the concert, he adds, is Rs. 15 lakh. This sets the minds of the five undertrials thinking because they need the money to hire lawyer Vachani (Ram Kapoor) who can ensure their release but who is very expensive.
The five band members escape one day. They are firm in their resolve to expose the system, the government, the jail authorities and everyone responsible for the pathetic state of the undertrials in Indian jails, and to present before the public the plight of undertrials in jails – all through their songs. But the police and jail authorities are hot on their trail.
What happens thereafter?
Habib Faisal and Sanjay Sharma have penned an unusual story of undertrials rotting in jail. Although the story is interesting, it also takes quite a convenient view of the undertrials, almost completely ignoring undertrials who may be real criminals. Had some characters been shown to be real criminals and rightfully rotting in jail, it would’ve added to the impact because that would’ve made the drama look more real. Habib Faisal’s screenplay is good but only upto a point, after which it appears to be both, too simplistic and too idealistic. To assume that a band of undertrials can influence public opinion in a matter of a few minutes looks a bit far-fetched. Also, showing Vachani’s change of heart in a jiffy makes the climax look hurried. Perhaps, the biggest drawback is that the background of all the seven undertrials is established only through dialogues rather than by showing the same. This may have worked if the actors playing the seven undertrials (or at least the two most important of them) were established actors but in this film, the undertrials are all played by newcomers. Also, since the issue taken up in the film is of undertrials, it would not connect with a majority of the viewers because not many are aware or even want to be aware of what goes on in jails of India. Of course, had the script been emotional, it would have worked despite the aforementioned shortcomings.
Having said this, it must also be mentioned that some of the sequences are well-written. For instance, the escape of the undertrials, and the rock concert are two such well-penned sequences. However, the drama lacks emotional appeal as the audience doesn’t find itself feeling too bad for the protagonists. Also, the track of the police and jail authorities torturing three undertrials in the pre-climax and interrogating the family members of the undertrials to know the whereabouts of the remaining two looks contrived because they could’ve got all the information from the one (Valley) who had sounded them about the undertrials visiting him. Habib Faisal’s dialogues are good at places.
Aadar Jain makes a fair debut as Sanju. He looks okay and his performance is alright. Newcomer Anya Singh (as Bindu) is average in looks but is a good actress. Mikhail Yawalkar is impressive as Rufy. Prince Parvinder Singh does a fair job as Maskeen. Peter Muxka Manuel leaves a mark as Ogu. Sachin Pilgaonkar is lovely as the jailor. Ram Kapoor makes his presence felt in a special appearance, as lawyer Vachani. Cyndy Khojol (as Sange) and Anna Ador (as Tatyana) provide able support. Kuldeep Sareen makes his presence felt as Rawat. Jitin Gulati (as Valley) and Sheetal Thakur (as Roza) are effective. Chirag Patil (as Mohsin), Sidhant Mago (as Surti), Pankaj Kalra (as Ajay Raina), Majit Khan (as Netram), Prerna Wanvari (as Pratibha), Reem (as Mamta), Shubhangi Chohan (as Shanta), Altamash Shakreen (as Nyla), baby Suha Sheikh (as Ruhi), Raman Khatri (as the minister), Sandeep V. Pednekar (as Sanju’s father), Mansi Srivastav (as Simran) and the rest are okay.
Habib Faisal’s direction is quite good but lopsided too. More importantly, his narration has not been able to evoke heart-wrenching sympathy for the undertrials in jail, perhaps, because identification is difficult for the general public. Considering that this is the story of a music band, the songs should have been chartbusters. But no song (Amit Trivedi) is hit although a couple of them are fairly good. Lyrics (Kausar Munir, Habib Faisal and Sidhant Mago) are effective. Song picturisations (Rekha & Chinni Prakash and Ashley Lobo) are okay. Hitesh Modak’s background music is alright. Anay Goswamy’s cinematography is appropriate. Mukund Gupta’s production designing is alright. Aarti Bajaj’s editing is quite sharp.
On the whole, Qaidi Band is good in parts but its business prospects in cinemas are very weak because of a lopsided script, lack of face value, lack of identification with the characters, and dull publicity.