Imagine you are in an elevator with five other people. There is a next-to-zero chance of you striking a conversation with them. Now, if the elevator gets stuck somewhere. You crack a joke about saying your prayers. Or the sad state of elevators. Somehow, a common fear always brings people closer.
Is that the reason why 'No Smoking' bombed?
You are in a movie theater with a hundred odd other people (I saw it on the first day of release, so the count is justified). The movie chugs along better than most other movies, with a story line which is weird, but still comprehensible. And suddenly, the elevator stops. You lose connect with the movie. The last half an hour beats your intellect. Now that is really a question for your highly inflated ego. You are a successful businessman, or IT professional, or whoever. You cannot fail to comprehend something. That too something as 'trivial' as a movie. Our sixth sense kicks into action, and we sense the same fear in others. Ah! Now its time for the jokes. The director must have lost it. Your boo is echoed by other boos from the crowd. Result? Bad movie.
I liked the movie and was ready to 'overcome' this slight issue of not getting this movie. I had faith in Anurag Kashyap, and knew there was something in there. This though not obvious at first, is definitely there. It has to make sense somehow. But how many of us are really ready to take that step?
Recently I saw two familiar movies, which made no sense at first. But the way these movies are made, you build this faith in the director. He will not take your hand and guide you through the movie only to throw you off a cliff in the end. You sit down and think. (SPOILERS) Donnie Darko has some obvious references to time travel, so maybe the end can be justified with that theory. Mulholland Drive has this reference about dreams. So maybe, you can interpret the movie as a surreal dream. These are again just interpretations and not necessarily a conclusive fact.
Good art, they say is like connecting the dots. You remember those numbered dots you have in children's books. You connect them and you get the picture. Now you take the numbers off these dots. This series of seemingly unrelated dots can be interpreted to many images. It can be a duck, or a dinosaur. Appreciating art is all about interpreting art.
No Smoking is a very well made movie. Its production qualities are some of the best ever in Hindi movies; even better than the big budget super-hero kinds. Sadly, it didn't work. Because our brains are better put to use in our 9 to 6 jobs than in a two-and-a-half hour movie. And please, we cannot be wrong. The director was smoking Afghan Hash.