The subject of juvenile crime being touched in Hindi cinema isn't something totally new. In fact it was explored in a lesser known film 'City of Gold' [by Mahesh Manjrekar] a few months back. Still, it's the treatment as seen in 'Allah Ke Banday' that makes the story far more interesting. Normally, kids occupy centre-stage for about 15-20 minutes in a film and a fast forward to future seems them emerging as grown up heroes in no time. However, in case of 'Allah Ke Banday', its very USP of kids being exposed to crime is nurtured to the fullest, hence making it a gripping fare for most part of it.
Really, this is the most enthralling part about 'Allah Ke Banday' as for the first 40-45 minutes; you are exposed to a world which has been hitherto unseen (to such extent) in a Bollywood flick.
An upbringing in slums, their first exposure to crime, a willingness to be a part of the gang, a desire to form their own gang, an act of heroism, no repent despite a crime, a struggle for survival inside the juvenile house, loosing their modesty to the warden (Naseeruddin Shah), a resolve to emerge stronger, formation of a gang inside the prison and eventual emergence as much calculative gangsters - the characters played by Sharman and Faruk go through a roller coaster ride that makes the first one hour fly by.
To aid this storytelling, the makers deserve credits for shooting the film in real slums of Mumbai. Though one has been exposed to slums in films like 'Striker', 'City of Gold' and most recently 'Shahrukh Bola Khoobsurat Hai Tu' as well, the visuals look most edgy and gritty here in 'Allah Ke Banday', courtesy some able cinematography. Background music is fantastic, especially in the first half of the film where it oscillates between Western and hardcore Indian from the 70s.
However, the second half slips, and how. The entire episode of Atul Kulkarni as a teacher who wants to bring in a change in the slums is not just boring but also total distraction from the film's storyline. Recruitment of kids as upcoming gangsters and their training followed by acts of crime too doesn't bring in as much excitement in the narrative as one saw in the first half. In fact while Faruk does try his best not to make the film turn into another 'Satya' or 'Company', lack of some good material in hand to tell a tell differently bogs him down.
Worse is the presence of female characters in this part of the film. Frankly, there was no place for Ruskhar and Anjana Sukhani's characters here as even for those couple of scenes each that they appear, the narrative just goes down. While we would have loved to stay on with Sharman and Vijay, episodes like these only make the film wander.
Thankfully, the film returns on tracks in the penultimate 20-25 minutes with an extended climax returning the thrills back into the narrative. The entire sequence leading to a shootout and an ultimate surrender is done well and double twist in the final moments only leads to one getting connected to the storyline all over again. The films ends well too, hence turning 'Allah Ke Banday' into a satisfactory affair eventually.
From performances perspective, Sharman is good though one would have expected something more hard hitting here. Faruk is natural though one wonders what would be his range outside the character that he plays here. Naseeruddin Shah is reliable as always and shows his worth all over again, especially in his lone scene in the second half. On the other hand the best performances actually come from the child actors who play Sharman and Faruk.
Writer-director-actor Faruk Kabir does end the film on a slightly positive note with a ray of sunlight somewhere far away. But as a story teller, he too doesn't make any false promises and tells things as they are without proposing a holistic solution. He warns that there could well be a vicious circle for kids who may not have an opportunity of leading a better life and instead turning into criminals, hence giving rise to many more of their ilk.