By Subhash K Jha, IANS
So finally it's about the conscience. All of Madhur Bhandarkar's best works - and this certainly qualifies as a fine progressive piece of cinema - have finally boiled down to the question of the conscience and the individual.
Kay Kay Menon playing the ambitious but conscientious corporate wheeler-dealer run by an unscrupulous tycoon (Rajat Kapoor) who would go to any length to make his way up the corporate ladder, is so adept at showing his troubled conscience you wonder which came first ….the conscience or movies crystallizing its dilemma.
The corporate world so much a part of television serials, has never been exposed on the large screen since Shyam Benegal's KALYUG. To his credit Bhandarkar, with considerable help from his editor, slices through these ambition-driven people with the urgent hiss of a car negotiating a craggy highway.
The bumps and jerks in these snarled lives are seldom detrimental to Bhandarkar's tremendous knack of storytelling.
This is a director who packs in a precious punch in the plot. The screenplay that Bhandarkar has co-written with Manoj Tyagi has enough twists and turns to make the corporate jargon decodable to the lay person.
Like CHANDNI BAR and PAGE 3, CORPORATE sets its feet firmly in a culture-specific work-oriented milieu. It then finds an emotional bedrock in its innumerable characters, portrays them as people trapped in ambitions and desires over which they've no control after a point.
Though Bhandarkar forms an amazing criss-cross of undercurrents in the two rival families headed by Rajat Kapoor and Raj Babbar (there're even the peons making nudge-nudge-wink-wink remarks about their bosses) the narrative finally narrows down to being a burnished love story between two colleagues, played with rhythmic restrain by Kay Kay and Bipasha, working on the same side of the fence and yet drifting away due to their inability to control the swing of destiny.
As the morally upright Nishigandha who steals her rival's project only to pay an unimaginable price for her indiscretion, Bipasha Basu pulls out all stops to deliver a performance that avoids artifice.
This one is straight from the heart.
Though the film knits a compelling criss-cross of agile entrepreneurship it's the heart that eventually triumphs over the head in this smartly told drama of doom and redemption.
The camera (Mahesh Milaye) doesn't stop long enough to absorb Aje Monge and Manoj Tyagi's penetrating words. Bhandarkar moves quickly and surely through the corporate labyrinth. His well-researched plot finds its level within the characters' conscience.
We're finally watching them with their souls naked to the camera.
Every performance from Bipasha Basu to Sammir Dattani (who plays a brief but bright part of a young executive in her office) is credible and often compelling. Rajat Kapoor and in brief role Lillete Dubey, are front-runners in the performing sweepstakes.
Yes, the film's industrial mood and language may be impenetrable to those who think tycoons wear expensive suits and have meetings in 5-star hotels.
Look at the lies beneath, and the gloss vanishes, the grime bubbles to the surface. His plot is wide and often-deep giving incidental characters a sudden but sure sweep of self-expression. Rajat Kapoor's domestic life or the beginnings of a romance between new recruit Minissha Lamba and Sammir Dattani are dealt with in just one sequence each.
Bhandarkar is a past-master wielding the whip over his plot until the characters sing in a language of pain hurt and atonement. The larger picture secretes some startling comments on morality in a ruthless profession.
To begin with CORPORATE may lack the dramatic intensity of the director's earlier works. But once Bhandarkar takes you in, he turns the screw hard, reminding us of how far away ambition has driven us from our dreams.