WTF ASIA 193: Vinci Da (2019)

Apparently, this film is dedicated to the technicians working behind the camera, the real and unsung heroes of cinema. Well, if there are people who see themselves in the main character, then…uh…

Watch Vinci Da | Prime Video

Available in AustraliaCanadaFrancethe Netherlandsthe United Kingdomthe United States, and perhaps a few other countries. Approximately 113 minutes.

So, the narrative at the start of this movie is a bit scattered, but I will try to summarize it.

We start with Adi Bose, a boy about to turn 18. He is celebrating by…eating chips on his bed while reading a book about Indian penal codes…okay…

Adi’s birthday reading is interrupted by his father hitting his mother in the other room over not giving him chips when he asked. Adi goes over there, seemingly more annoyed that they are making so much noise than the violence. He tells his father to let go of his mother. At first, his father ignores him, but then tells him to leave them alone and go study. Adi says that he would be able to concentrate if not for the ruckus.

Adi’s mother pleads with him to go back to his room and wait for his father to cool down. And then, after midnight, they will go out for a birthday celebration. Adi’s father agrees. Adi should go finish his homework and his father will finish…what he was doing. His father turns back to his mother, and asks how someone so disobedient could be his son. He grabs her and accuses her of having slept with someone else. He stops only once Adi starts calling him names. Adi’s father grabs him and threatens to beat him to a pulp if he doesn’t go away.

So Adi goes back to his room…to get a cricket bat. He goes back to his father and hits him in the back of the head. And then hits him three more times. His mother falls to the ground in shock, but Adi remains calm. He goes over to the phone and calls the local police station to confess. Well, technically, it is a confession, but he sounds like he is calling a plumber after having clogged the sink.

Adi goes back to his room and, still covered in blood, returns to reading the book while eating chips on his bed. The clock strikes twelve. Happy eighteenth birthday, Adi.

Well, that was a pleasant five-minute introduction. But, instead of building off that, this movie is going to suddenly pivot to the person who is actually our main character.

Mister Bhowmik’s father was a serious makeup artist for film. He was extremely serious about the craft, and would scold anyone for getting in the way of it. It may have been due to this behavior and attitude that his wife left him.

Without a mother, young Mister Bhowmik held close to his father and followed in his footsteps, learning from his father, from whatever book he could find and, eventually, from the internet. He also started delving into prosthetics and a bunch of other stuff.

One day while on a tea break, a grown-up Mister Bhowmik overhears two guys arguing over whether Van Gogh is an artistic genius. One says yes, while the other throws out a bunch of names whom he claims are just as good if not better. Picasso, Dali, Monet, Manet. Bhowmik dismisses all of them as amateurs. He claims that everyone is an amateur compared to Leonardo da Vinci; a true genius as opposed to those mere painters. He was the first to prove to the world that art is science and science is art. The two other men mock him as being a Da Vinci fanboy, calling him Vinci Da. Well…Mister Bhowmik was never Mister Bhowmik again: everyone would call him Vinci Da. This is his story.

And to show that this is Vinci Da’s story, we move to a completely unrelated storyline, where a businessman named Shyamsundar Jaiswal was on trial for his involvement in a Rs. 2500 crore (about 330 million USD) scam involving his company, hotel, and resort. He has just been acquitted due to lack of substantial evidence and, while he is fine telling the media that scam did occur, the High Court said that he is not the one who did it, and then laughs off a reporter for asking who may have done it.

Vinci Da’s father is dead. During the rites, he tries to avoid looking at his father’s stone-cold dead face. But when he cannot avoid it anymore, Vinci Da decides to honor his father’s life and life’s work by interrupting the ceremony to put on some makeup on his father’s face. The others call him insane, but no one stops him.

Later, Vinci Da meets Abhijeet, one of his father’s industry friends. He tells Vinci Da that he must bring his craft to the practical stage, to get his act together, and start earning a living. He gets Vinci Da in contact with a famous director.

Oh, okay, cut to another court case. Here, a man is accused of running over five people with his car, but one of his employees is on the stand taking responsibility for the fatal incident. Well…anyways.

Vinci Da meets with the director, who asks him if he has skills or if he is just using his father’s name to get work. Vinci Da asserts that he is good at what he does. The director then asks why Vinci Da left the set of another movie. Vinci Da says that he left because he felt insulted. Apparently, after pushing him to do his best in order to compete with Bollywood, the director said that his 4 ½ hours of work making an actor look like he had been in a blast looked so realistic that the Censor Board would make them cut the scene. So, this director asks Vinci Da if he wants to surpass Bollywood. Vinci Da says that he does not want to, but he can; and with half the budget. The director seems doubtful, but is willing to give him a chance. Fresh blood.

And, yes, that text in the corner says smoking kills.

ANOTHER COURT CASE?? This time, a man has been acquitted of rape after one judge after another suddenly left the case. It is obvious that he did it, but the only way to get justice is if the victim has the money to appeal to the supreme court and go through all of this again. And…wait…he films himself in the act?? How did he…well, anyways…

The director is…less than pleased with the results of Vinci Da’s work. He claims that Vinci Da made the actor look ugly. After a back and forth, the director says that he will call Vinci Da if there is a need for him on future projects. Vinci Da laughs, saying that the director is using his late uncle’s legacy as a leg up, and that only his first film was any good. He then basically calls the producer a criminal and insults the lead actor’s acting. Vinci Da walks off the set, pretty certain that he will be blackballed from the Bengali film industry.

Vinci Da goes back to his neighborhood and hangs out with Jaya, his kind-of girlfriend. He complains about that day’s mistreatment. Jaya tells him to forget about them; he will find another job, if not in the film industry, then somewhere else. She then tells him that her family cannot find a groom for her because of her stammer. But all the better for the two of them, for then they can get married. Silver lining and all that.

Okay, shifting to ANOTHER storyline where a pickpocket runs off of a bus and several other passengers run after him.

They chase him far, only for him to be grabbed by a man in narrow alley. The other men run past and pickpocket is relieved to have been rescued. Well, turns out not so much. The rescuer tells the pickpocket that they need to go to the police station. The pickpocket tries to run again, but the man catches him pretty quickly and beats him pretty badly What is he, a cop?

Nope. Remember Adi Bose from 15 minutes ago? Well, he is back. It turns out that, while he was not tried as an adult for killing his father, his mother abandoned him to the asylum. He managed to study law there.

Even though he could no longer follow his dream of becoming a criminal lawyer, he hung around courts after being released. He would take notes on difficult cases and set up his own outdoor office by the court, and made money giving advice to experienced lawyers. Is THAT legal? Well, whatever. The point is that simply getting released from the asylum did not mean that he was no longer insane. If anything, he got worse over time.

So, now Adi is back, looking like a weaselly Lalo Salamanca. He barges into the police station, telling Inspector Bijoy Poddar that he has a pickpocket in his car who is close to death after being badly beaten by…a mob. When Poddar asks him why he did not take the pickpocket to the hospital, Adi states that the law comes before everything else, including life and death. There is a bit more back and forth, but it is clear that Adi is both very knowledgeable when it comes to the law…and not all there.

Okay…back to Vinci Da. Abhijeet goes to see him and is upset that he had gone through all that work to get Vinci Da a job only for Vinci Da to antagonize everyone again. Vinci Da argues that the people insulted him and his work, when they were the ones who stink. Abhijeet tries to comment on Vinci Da having been reduced to doing makeup for kids’ plays and brides to earn a living, but Vinci Da claims that all that matters is that he is able to practice his craft. And, besides, those child actors would put the professional film actors to shame.

As Vinci Da does his work…and occasionally tests things out on Jaya, Adi does recon on those guys who beat their charges in court. A lot of recon.

And it is finally time for the two to meet. Adi goes to Vinci Da’s place and says that he wants to discuss a biopic being made about Shyamsundar Jaiswal, the businessman from that scamming trial. He offers Vinci Da a job doing prosthetics for the actor playing Jaiswal. Vinci Da is, of course, interested. So, they discuss what he will be doing. When Vinci Da says that he will need to measure the actor’s face to make a perfect fit, Adi interrupts him. Vinci Da is to make a prosthetic of Jaiswal face for Adi to wear first, just to show proof of concept. And then Vinci Da can do the same for the actor. Adi gives him a flash drive with the physical specs on Jaiswal and, I guess the money that he needs to purchase the necessary materials.

So Vinci Da gets to work. It is a long process, but he is in the zone. Turning Adi (and the actor) into a man whom everyone already recognizes will be his masterpiece. Adi even films some of it.

Meanwhile, the real Shyamsundar Jaiswal goes to a restaurant to get something to eat, only to see on the TV a news report saying that he robbed a bank. There is CCTV footage and phone videos of him holding up the place and shooting a security guard. And…jeez, the report shows the full shooting. I won’t, but trust me on this.

Jaiswal seems to be in shock, but the other customers are staring at him. Eventually, he leaves the restaurant and manages to drive away before a group of men can catch him.

Jaiswal gets on the phone with someone named Rajdeep. He reminds Rajdeep that he had an appointment with someone. And why would he, a wealthy businessman, kill someone for a little cash? Well, he has to go into hiding.

Vinci Da is fixing himself some tea when he sees the news. And, he drops the tea on the floor. Yeah, he knows that it was not Jaiswal who did it. It was Adi Bose. Money is stolen, a man has been murdered, a man has been framed. And Vinci Da was instrumental to it happening.

Oh, he is in trouble now.

All right, so this movie…woosh.

This movie started out rather brazenly and, after ambling for a little while, went brazen again. What I have summarized so far is a bunch of dominos getting set up and the first few getting knocked over, and then a bunch of dominos getting stepped on and kicked over.

So, after avoiding a prison sentence for murder simply due to being 30 minutes shy of legal adulthood, he probably had the taste for blood, but did not have an outlet…until now. Like Dexter Morgan, he has decided to channel his bloodthirsty energies into targeting criminals who have managed to beat the legal system. Unlike Dexter Morgan, Adi does not want to kill those people, but frame them for a crime similar to what they had actually committed. So, Adi, outwardly an intense stickler for the law, is committing deadly crimes in order to send other criminals to prison. And that means letting innocent people become collateral damage. Usually, though not always, that means killing them. Harry Morgan would be so disappointed.

And what of Vinci Da? I do not want to spoil the rest of the movie for you, but let’s just say that while Vinci Da is horrified by what Adi does, he does not immediately go to the police. Yes, Vinci Da is scared that he will not totally be safe from either Adi or arrest himself. But also, this is the first time in a while that he was able to fully take advantage of his talents and skills. That feeling that he experienced while making the Jaiswal disguise was like nothing that he has felt for a while. And, perhaps some part of him longs to feel that way again. Can he rationalize having worked with Adi? Could he rationalize working with Adi again?

I get the feeling that writer-director Srijit Mukherji as well as co-writer/lead actor Rudranil Ghosh were trying to say various things with his character. On the one hand, yes, artists should be respected, even if they are not that type of artists to get major public recognition. And, yes, great art can be found even in the most unexpected places. On the other hand…if your art is used by evil people for evil means, what does that make your art? What does that make you?

Of course, art cannot be treated in a vacuum if it was not made in a vacuum. Art made for malicious purposes must be condemned. Misusing art for malicious purposes must be condemned. Art that can be used to support malicious acts must be condemned. And…well, few pieces of art are made in a vacuum. I guess that one could say that we must treat all members of movie crews with respect or else they may be reduced to plying their craft in malicious works. That may be why co-writer and lead actor Rudranil Ghosh joined the Bharatiya Janata Party in 2021. Heh. Probably not; I just felt that I had to mention that somewhere.

This movie throws a few bombs. Its depiction of the West Bengali film industry is rather negative, implying that it deliberately makes cookie-cutter garbage. Its depiction of the legal system is ambivalent at best, with those with enough pull being able to game it. The film’s depiction of the police is a bit odd, though not necessarily uniquely odd. The officers are torture-happy towards suspects, but they are not particularly discriminatory when it comes to whom they torture; they would love to get their fists on the rich people if they could. Again, that is not necessarily unique to this movie, but this movie really liked to hammer that home.

The bomb-throwing may come at the expense of a few things. For one, while I am sure that there was some care involved in showing how makeup and prosthetics work in film, but there was also a lot of nonsense. It showed Vinci Da working, but it hardly showed any sort of procedure. And while the movie may portray Adi’s disregard of human life for his own ends as a negative thing, the movie is hardly innocent of such a thing, particularly in regards to women. Adi’s mother has few lines, and most of them is making Adi leave before her husband turns his wrath against her son. And even though she shows up in the second flashback, she does not say much. There are several female characters who do not get any lines, such as the actress whom Vinci Da puts in makeup and then gets called ugly. Then there is the “girlfriend” of one defendant and the living victim of another. For sure, there are women who do get lines, though they are more likely to be part of a crowd than individual characters themselves.

Jay is the only woman who is close to the center of this story. She is basically Vinci Da’s girlfriend and maybe muse. Eventually, she becomes a greater part of the storyline, but is still just an extension of Vinci Da’s character. And…let’s just say that that leads to a rather questionable pair of scenes in an already questionable story. Like, surely there were other concerns to think about than the ones that had the most focus. But that is sort of in the nature of the movie.

This movie can be a bit harsh and rough and…yeah, it stomps down some rather angry paths when maybe a little more polished nuance would have been useful. But, even though I cringed a few times at how it got, especially during that one segment near the end, I did kind of appreciate its brazen attitude. It was an aspect of the entertainment value. That might not work for you at all, but…maaaaybe it might.

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