By Murtaza Ali Khan
Actor-Writer-Director Faizan Kareem has recently wrapped the post production work on his upcoming heist thriller titled Morjim. Inspired by Casino heists like Oceans Eleven and thrillers like The Usual Suspects, Morjim is essentially an independent film that stars Dipannita Sharma, Rohit Nayyar, and Manjot Sharma in pivotal roles. The film costars Sharat Saxena, Murli Sharma, and Anisa. Faizan himself stars in a very interesting role of a con artist – a master of disguise and a tech-geek par excellence.
Morjim follows a mysterious man (played by Nayyar) driven by ulterior motives. When he spots a bright young man named Sam at one of the casinos, he recruits him as part of a major plan he wants to unleash in his grand scheme of things. Now, there are two parallel forces in the world of Morjim. There is the Russian drug lord Ivan. Then there is Paulo who controls the Casinos. Both are ruthless and extremely dangerous people and you surely don’t want to cross paths with them. While Paulo’s identity is known to everyone, Ivan is an enigma wrapped in a riddle wrapped in a puzzle. A character in the film compares Ivan to wind. One can feel Ivan’s presence but can’t see Ivan. It is never easy to tackle such an enigmatic character but Faizan is up to the challenge. By keeping the suspense alive throughout the film he is able to keep the audiences on the edge of the seat.
The project is a brainchild of Faizan Kareem and co-writer Samuel Levy, both of whom share a fascination with the game of poker. Now, Goa is the only place in India that had some trace of poker culture and that’s why they decided to set the film in Morjim. It took seven months to complete the script – a passion quest that Faizan and Samuel started in 2017. Morjim is shot across Goa, Mumbai and Pune. The biggest challenge for Faizan and team was to get the looks of the characters spot on. And that alone took 5 months to conceptualize.
Morjim is Faizan’s first feature film. A multi-disciplinary artist with over a decade of experience in both the Indian and American film industries, he previously has seven short films to his credit including The Knowing of Ali, Shylock, Sabka Malik Ek, and Uninstall. A brief look at Faizan’s work makes one understand the importance he devotes to highlighting the contemporary issues that form the social fabric of the Indian and international society. His short film The Knowing of Ali that had its premiere at the Warner Bros. Studios in Los Angeles focuses on an Islamic militant who goes through a change of heart after a chance encounter with a child. Similarly, his acclaimed short Sabka Malik Ek focuses on religious discrimination in India.
Faizan, who lives in New York and has an MFA in filmmaking from New York Film Academy in Los Angeles, also actively produces digital videos and media advertising campaigns and some of his corporate clients include Coca-Cola, Jio, Myntra, Sony, etc. But with Morjim he seems to have pushed his creative horizons the furthest. A proper heist thriller like Mojim has never really been attempted in India before. So naturally it’s a big risk to go full throttle with an ambitious genre like this. The screenplay cleverly employs humors to ensure that the tension never really gets too overwhelming. Faizan’s con-artist character is at the forefront of providing the much needed comic relief. Previously, he showed his acting range in his short Sabka Malik Ek but in Morjim he really is at his funniest. Consider his introductory scene wherein he is sitting in an office and trying to con two men. He is quick to convince them that he is capable of actually doubling their money in no time. As soon as they leave he quickly changes his getup and we realize that it’s not even his office. He has merely come there as a service boy and in no time he is able to make some serious money by conning these two men. The different getups that he takes up in the movie really make his portrayal unforgettable.
Morjim may not be a perfect film but it is certainly a delicious one. Among other things, it has a McGuffin that even Hitchcock would have been proud of. Another interesting aspect of Morjim is the casting of noted Bollywood actor Manjot Singh as Sam. The challenge was to address a very important question: Can filmmakers work around religious beliefs of actors? This is the first time Manjot, a Sikh actor, is playing a Christian character. In all of his other films he has essentially played a Sikh. Full marks to Faizan for creating a refreshing character like Sam while letting Manjot keep his religious beliefs intact. While Rohit Nayyar is solid in his role, it is really Dipannita Sharma who is the show stealer here. Dipannita has seldom played such a glamorous role. For the film she donned as many as 16 different looks. As Tanya, she is the epitome of feminine coquetry and charm – the quintessential femme fatale. This is the definitive performance of her acting career. To watch her go about her business is to witness a bloodthirsty predator playing with its helpless prey. The performance alone makes the film a must watch.
Murtaza Ali Khan is an independent film critic based out of Delhi, India. He is the editor-in-chief of A Potpourri of Vestiges and is a regular contributor to The Huffington Post. He has also contributed to The Hindu, The Quint, Wittyfeed, etc. He is on the guest panel for live discussions on the television channel News X. He is Films Editor at Café Dissensus.
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