WTF ASIA 26: Company (2002)
Company is the last organized crime film that I will be talking about forâ€¦well, a couple of weeks, at least. While the others were humorous in their own ways, this one is pretty serious, though maybe you can find some unintentional comedy from it, it is Bollywood after all. While it may not be as gory as some of the others, the tone of it may make for more unsettling viewing.
The movie centers primarily on three men: Malik, Chandu, and Sreenivasan. Malik is the boss of the most successful criminal gang under an umbrella organization. We first see him recruiting Chandu and his small gang into the organization to perform grunt work. While there is some tension between Chanduâ€™s gang and Malikâ€™s group, Malik sticks up for Chandu, particularly when Chandu gets into a squabble with another criminal boss. The two work well together, but they are quite different in temperament. Chandu is very emotional, a bit hotheaded, and maybe a little impulsive. Malik is cold and calculating, almost never raising his voice.
The movie (and the narration) presents the organization as a business, hence the title of Company. And while the criminal world may be a way of life for Chandu, Malik is all business. As the leader of the most successful gang within the umbrella group, Malik invites envy and resentment from the other bosses. But while the other bosses can be petty, Malik gets to work. Violence is merely part of that business; it is a means to maintain oneâ€™s position and gain standing. He does not always resort to violence when unnecessary, but he does not hesitate to order murder if he feels that it is the best method of getting something done. Sometimes it is to neutralize an immediate threat, sometimes it is to stave off a potential future threat, sometimes it is merely an opportunity for advancement.
With the help of Chanduâ€™s gang, Malik is able to get rid of his rivals within the umbrella organization and become the leader of organized crime in Mumbai. The sudden violence draws the attention of the police, and Sreenivasan is tasked with bringing down Malik. The Commissioner of Police has a reputation of bringing down violent crime, but that is due to his questionable tactics. He is outwardly friendly and easy going, but he is perfectly willing to have suspects tortured to get what he wants. He sees his job as a puzzle or a game, with Malik as the prize. And he is pretty matter-of-fact and unapologetic about his iron-fist approach to criminals.
Even with Sreenivasan on the case, Malikâ€™s criminal enterprise expands and begins to include many facets of illicit activity, including involvement in the movie industry and political machinations. During this time, Chandu is able to move his mother into better accommodations. How much she knows about what Malik does is unclear, though it becomes less likely over time that she can be ignorant. Chanduâ€™s fiancÃ©e, Kannu, is never under any illusions regarding what he does. She is present during a few meetings and befriends Malikâ€™s girlfriend, Saroja. Kanne and Saroja are even key players in a major plot point, though not necessarily in a positive manner.
Eventually, the leadership of the organization has to flee Mumbai, but the enterprise has grown beyond the city and has become international. This shift in scope leads to some problems that lead to personality clashes and more violence.
I donâ€™t know if it was deliberate or if it is just me approaching the movie in the wrong way but, to a certain extent, the story of these criminals almost treated like it is a horror movie of sorts. Chandu may be a violent thug, but he is nothing compared to Malik. Malik gives off the airs of being not just a villain, but evil incarnateâ€¦even when he is not necessarily trying to be. Sreenivasanâ€™s general laid-back demeanor makes him seem scarier than he would have had he appeared more passionate or violent. The music and narration add to the eerie atmosphere, though sometimes it can lead to unintentional comedy by laying it on at inappropriate moments. And the movie uses one segment of Gustav Holstâ€™s â€œMarsâ€ as a recurring theme so many times that it seems like a running gag. This would not be the first Bollywood film to use this piece, but it got a little distracting that it would be only this one segment used over and over. Still, the use of that segment gives the impression that something bad could happen at any time, even when things seem to be settling down. It may be somewhat emotionally manipulative, but it worked on me for the most part.
While the violence is, for the most part, confined to the criminals, sometimes it is not. And there is a sense that the outside world is being exposed to such violence at an increasing rate and being pulled into it. There are a couple of scenes that are basically montages of people being murdered and, instead of coming across as a Godfather-style climax, it seems like a presentation of a horrible new reality that will only get worse.
There are the themes of loyalty, honor, and codes of ethics that are common to many movies about organized crime, but the sense of coolness and glamorization is offset by the overriding threat of violence. Perhaps it is just my personal approach to the movie, but after dealing with the dark comedies of the previous gangster films, there was something about the mood of impending and inevitable violence in this movie that struck me as more impactful. It was not that this movie was bloodier than the others, and it is actually tamer in terms of actual violence than most mobster movies that I have seen. However, it does not, in my opinion, treat the violence as something exciting or cathartic, but something to dread. There are a few times, when violence happens without warning (and at least one time where we find out about someoneâ€™s death only from a news report), but most of the time, there is a lot of build-up, and the only question is who is going to die.
Some have claimed that this movie is a sequel to an earlier crime movie called Satya, but the DVD special had the actors in Company insist that it was a totally different and unrelated movie. It is just as well, since I got through only forty minutes of Satya before quitting out of total disinterest. Company, however, had my attention from beginning and kept it until the end. I am not sure if others will feel the sense of fear that I did when watching it, and maybe I was not supposed to feel that way, but it definitely made for interesting viewing for me. Even without that, I believe that this is recommendable.
Next Time: House (Japan: 1977, approx. 90 minutes).
Time After Next: Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (China: 2000, approx. 120 minutes).