Less than a month after “Qaidi Band”, another set of prisoners form a music band in jail - picking up life lessons and making friends in the process.
“Rock On” Farhan Akhtar plays the struggling singer again, but in Ranjit Tiwari’s “Lucknow Central” he isn’t battling existential issues or angst. His struggle is straightforward - escape from prison, where he’s serving a life sentence for a murder he didn’t commit.
Akhtar’s character, Kishan, sees an opportunity for his own Shawshank-style escape in the form of a music competition in prisons, a pet project of the state’s chief minister. Along with goody-two-shoes social worker, Gayatri Kashyap (Diana Penty), he assembles a motley bunch of hardened criminals and convinces them that the only way to escape is to form a band, take part in the competition and escape minutes before the performance.
Kishan’s plans are nearly foiled by a despotic jailer, played by the ever-reliable Ronit Roy, but the five jailbirds have each other’s back. Director Tiwari shows some genuine moments of affection between the two men, but the film’s premise is flimsy and it needs more conviction than there is on display here.
Aside from the camaraderie between the men and a few action sequences, the film doesn’t really dwell on prisons and prisoners. In the end, it resorts to the same trope many Bollywood films are using these days - the characters make a video, it “goes viral” on social media and brings them instant fame and is the means towards solving their problems. If only social media did so much good in real life.
If there is a redeeming feature in “Lucknow Central”, it is the acting. Farhan Akhtar puts in a sincere effort to play a small-town, lower-middle-class musician, and is ably backed by rest of the cast. With stellar actors, including Deepak Dobriyal and Rajesh Sharma, “Lucknow Central” is a film that you can forgive for its rough edges - because it has its heart in the right place.