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Posted at: Apr 6, 2018, 6:14 PM; last updated: Apr 6, 2018, 6:14 PM (IST)MOVIE REVIEW: BLACKMAIL

Holding you for a ransom

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Film: Blackmail

  • Cast: Irrfan Khan, Kirti Kulhari, Arunoday Singh, Omi Vaidya, Divya Dutta and Atul Kale
  • Director: Abhinay Deo
Holding you for a ransom
A still from Blackmail

Nonika Singh

Adultery is a subject that Bollywood doesn’t quite know how to handle/tackle. Invariably you have either forgiveness epitomized   dramas or preachy sermons. Rare is a film that takes unfaithfulness as part of new social fabric, an urban anomie where cheating wives or husbands suffer from little pangs of guilt.

Not that Blackmail justifies infidelity. But it spares us both the bhaashan baaji and weepy rona dhona. Rather, it gives a new spin to extramarital ties that is at once off-centre and aligned to today’s reality. If Dharmendra-starrer Blackmail was all mush mush with lilting songs to boot that ring in our ears till date, this namesake is anything but sentimental.  

Early on in the film, Dev Kaushal (Irrfan Khan) discovers his wife Reena (Kirti Kulhari) is cheating on him. Guess what happens? Well, he neither confronts her nor dumps her. Instead he begins to blackmail her boyfriend. Atta boy, bravo, here is a brand new concept. Only if things were so simple; to plan for the actor and execute for the director! The boyfriend (Arunoday Singh is too good) it so happens is no moneybags, only married to cash-cow (Divya Dutta is apt as over the top inebriated wife). So what does he do... well there lies the rub and the crux of the story; a chain of blackmails that involves far too many men and women begins in a circuitous fashion. Net result could have been chaotic, only the director saves it from turning into a free for all. 

A quirky theme, Blackmail actually has all the ingredients to be a laugh riot; but isn’t, even though black humour and some adult jokes and references exist in fair measure. As all of Deo’s principal characters are spurred by greed, it reminds you of Anurag Kashyap’s Ugly. But if that was a hard-hitting indictment of human nature this one remains lighthearted, even when it throws in deaths and murder. On the sideline, to up the comic quotient we guess, there is Omi Vaidya (of Three Idiots fame). He continues to almost do what he did back then, that is to play a pompous idiot. Only this time he is selling toilet paper with an ardour as if he had just invented rocket science. Most of his gags strangely fall flat.

Irrfan as sales executive in his company almost seems to be so much Dev that one can accuse him of not acting at all. Flustered (and frustrated too) as a man cheated in love and marriage and caught in a drab job, he is, like always, unfailingly apt in his demeanour, seemingly cool, calm and collected. But as his friend says Tumhare jaise hi serial killer nikalte hai, clearly here is a devious and ingeniously vicious (pervert too) mind at work. Does he get trapped in the web of his making or he hoodwinks them all ... well, watch the film to know which way the cookie crumbles. 

Suffice it is to say Blackmail isn’t your average Bollywood hungama. But does it carry enough punch and punch-lines? Sadly, not all the way through.  Sardonic humour works in fits and starts; at times most delectably and at others it’s too convenient to be quixotic. If Deo was unabashed in his toilet humour spruced Delhi Belly, here he reaches for a veneer while exploring extramarital relationships. Overall the film leaves you with a feeling of a novel idea not quite finding firm feet. Despite a clutch of talented actors the otherwise hat ke film remains at best watchable. A pity for beyond cheating wives and swindling husbands is a whole world of possibilities that lay untapped. And more than Dev and his targets you end up feeling cheated, if not manipulated. 

nonikasingh@trbunemail.com

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