It seems like A-grade blockbusters have started boring Karan Johar and Shahrukh Khan, for one cannot think of any other reason why these two quality entertainers would ever pump money into this sorry excuse for a B-grade horror flick called “Kaal”.
Directed and supposedly written by a highly inexperienced, amateurish, and confused storyteller (Soham Shah), “Kaal” oscillates between trying to be an adventurous thriller and a predictable horror film, failing miserably in both attempts. Barring one scene that marks Kali Pratap Singh’s (Ajay Devgan) entry, Soham Shah’s cheap thrills and scares are so childishly executed, they would make the laughable Ramsays look like masters of the horror genre. Ditto for the attempted surprise twist that viewers have perhaps already predicted by merely watching the film’s trailers.
National Geographic researcher Krish Thapar (John Abraham) and his wife, Riya, who for some strange reason is always dressed as a call girl in the middle of a tiger reserve, want to “save the tiger” by tracking down the truth behind poaching in the Orbit Park. A broken down jeep leads to a chance meeting with a group of annoying tourists, Dev (Vivek Oberoi), Ishika (Lara Dutta, also dressed like a call girl), and a couple of their friends. The tourists break the rules by stepping out of the jeep and the tigers come after them. Enter Kali Pratap Singh (Devgan), the only man who can keep the tigers away without lifting a finger. As a storm brews, the visitors are trapped in the core area and Kali becomes their guide out of the reserve. Random growls, ear shattering screeches, laughable acting, a few severed heads, failed attempts at Hitchcockian distractions, and a complete disregard for any sort of logic leave you with nothing but a headache by the end of the painful two hours this move lasts for.
Soham Shah is as inept at directing performances as he is at writing an engaging screenplay or building any sort of momentum or pacing visually. Lack of strong characterization tells on the dismal level of performances from the cast. Lara Dutta cringes, cries, and yells randomly, while Esha Deol consistently carries a strange expression on her face that suggests she might have just swallowed a frog. Capable actors, Vivek Oberoi and John Abraham are sadly curtailed by their cardboard characters. Ajay Devgan tries his level best to rise above the non-existent screenplay, but the daunting task of saving the film single-handedly proves too difficult even for him.
Talented crew like cinematographer Santosh Thundiyil and sound designer Dwarak Warrier who could have played a significant part in enhancing the film are wasted due to the director’s unimaginative vision, succumbing to the misfortune of excesses on all fronts. In an effort to capture the raw danger of the jungle, the storytelling loses any hint of subtlety, the overdose ultimately making the entire effort laughable.
One would expect a skilled writer like Karan Johar to spot a bad script, and the acute businessman in Shahrukh Khan to keep his money away from it. If a label can sell a movie, “Kaal” is the finest example of it, for Johar and Khan will more than recover their investment by cheating their audiences through a stunning publicity campaign. However, having set a precedent for themselves as quality entertainers, “Kaal” is Dharma Productions’ biggest failure. To put it plainly, this movie stinks.