The joyless, immature heist film Kuttey (“Dogs“) is an inauspicious feature debut for writer-director Aasmaan Bhardwaj (son of filmmaker Vishal Bhardwaj, who co-wrote and produced Kuttey).
Kuttey opens in 2003 in a remote police outpost in western Maharashtra. Officer Paaji (Kumud Mishra) listens as jailed Maoist fighter Lakshmi (Konkona Sen Sharma) explains that he’ll never find freedom as a lackey in an oppressive system. She’s proven right when Paaji’s superior officer slaps him for treating Lakshmi compassionately, then rapes Lakshmi in front of him.
Thirteen years later, Paaji is still a cop, but he’s earning money on the side doing jobs for the drug dealer Khobre (Naseeruddin Shah) with fellow cop, Gopal (Arjun Kapoor). Khobre instructs the pair to murder a rival dealer, which they do, along with killing dozens of people at a pool party.
Actually, the rival dealer survives the assassination attempt, albeit in a coma. Paaji’s and Gopal’s boss bribes them to keep their involvement quiet in exchange for a hefty payout. They turn to another sketchy cop named Pammi (Tabu) for advice and learn from her pal Harry (Ashish Vidyarthi) about the route Harry’s armored truck takes on its nightly rounds to refill ATMs with cash. Paaji and Gopal both decide to rob the truck, though not together. Other people get wind of the plan, and chaos ensues.
Kuttey is an extremely violent movie, with a body count in the dozens. There’s nothing inherently wrong with that. Films full of pointless violence can still make a point themselves. But Kuttey doesn’t. It is violent in an attempt at edginess that just comes across as cruel. Couple that with the passionless sex scenes and foul language, and the film feels like the product of a particularly sheltered middle schooler who finds swearing, sex, and gore in movies endlessly thrilling because they are new to him.
The characters are so poorly defined that there’s no reason to care about any of them. We don’t know enough about these people or or their circumstances to get invested. It also strips all the deaths of meaning since there’s no sense of who is or isn’t deserving of grisly murder or what kind of void they’ll leave behind when they are gone. The goal seems to be the highest body count possible, achieved by any means.
With such hollow characters to work with, the performances in Kuttey are nothing special. That goes for Tabu as well, whose assignment is to cuss and chew scenery. Pammi spends an agonizingly long time telling the parable of the scorpion and the frog, even though everyone already knows it because so many other movies have used it. The whole film moves way too slowly despite having a runtime under two hours.
There’s also an issue with how violence is administered in Kuttey. Virtually every character is subjected to violence. But only women are done so in a punitive way, and not just because they are an obstacle in someone’s pursuit of a greater goal. Besides Lakshmi’s rape, the scene at the pool party thrown by the rival drug dealer is especially problematic. As Paaji and Gopal walk towards the rival dealer to shoot him and his “Nigerian” counterparts (one of whom has an American accent), some unaware bikini-clad white women push the cops into the pool as a joke. Gopal can’t swim, and the women laugh at him as he’s rescued by the American guy. When Gopal recovers enough to pick up his gun, he shoots the laughing women first.