A taut and a very satisfying murder-mystery thriller is something that doesn┬┤t happen very often in Hindi cinema. Over the last couple of decades, there have been some real good enterprises like Vidhu Vinod Chopra┬┤s brilliant Khamosh (probably Hindi cinema┬┤s perfect murder mystery) or Keshu Ramsay┬┤s Khoj or even Esmayeel Shroff┬┤s Police Public and then, there were some like Partho Ghosh┬┤s 100 Days and Rajiv Rai┬┤s Gupt, which were entertaining and box office hits albeit geared more towards the ┬┤masala┬┤ entertainment rather than a hard-core murder mystery thriller. Roby Grewal┬┤s Samay falls into the same group as the former and tackles the ┬┤serial killer┬┤ aspect without many glitches and admirable linearity.
The movie starts off showing a sequence from Alfred Hitchcock┬┤s Vertigo (probably just a tribute signifying the influence, Hitchock has on Grewal) and within the next few sequences you clearly envisage a Hitchcock-inspired thriller that also takes inspiration from a few other Hollywood thrillers. The tone is set by the murder of ┬┤one of the best┬┤ industrialists in the country and how ACP Malvika Chauhan (Sushmita Sen) and her assistant Inspector Satya (Sushant Singh) jump into the investigation trying to unravel this case, a case without any obvious evidence or clue. Using the help of forensic experts and applying her own meticulous thought-process and crime-solving skills, Malvika terms this as a cleverly planned crime rather than just a stray incident.
Next up is another murder and this time the victim is ┬┤one of the best┬┤ actresses of the country in this Hitchcock┬┤s Psycho inspired shower scene and under very similar circumstances, that leads Malvika to believe that the two murders are linked. As Malvika and Satya try to gather clues and just as they have linked the two murders together, to their dismay there is a third murder and this time that of a contract killer, who was a vital link to the case. What happens next? How do Malvika and Satya crack the case? Who is really driving these events around Malvika┬┤s life? Step right this away, as Roby Grewal takes you through this taut script as he teases the viewer with various clues throughout the movie just as the killer teases ACP Malvika Chauhan and her assistants with similar clues at each instance.
The basic story is inspired from the Angelina Jolie-Denzel Washington starrer Bone Collector but at times it also takes cues from the very popular Agatha Christie novel ┬┤A.B.C Murders┬┤. Regardless of the inspirations, there is tremendous linearity in the script and all the sequences following the murders are well thought-off and executed. The thought process in identifying the murder-weapon in the first murder or identifying the motive behind the second murder and subsequently the way all the three victims are identified to be connected through one common source are reasons enough to acknowledge the meticulous script (Sameer Kohli and Roby Grewal) and the taut direction. The script also makes a good analogy for the entire chapter with TIME rather than just a sequence of haphazard events one after the other. However, the things leading to the climax are somewhat of a letdown as there is a lack of justification for the somewhat contrived and a little unconvincing denouement and after giving such rationale to the characters, the ending sequence does make it a little superficial. Also, those 2 songs are simply not required and should have been edited out.
Roby Grewal makes a very good debut and looking at some recent disappointments by others in the same genre (88 Antop Hill, Tarkieb and others), Samay gets the credit for being well crafted. His product is slick, aided by some good camerawork (Mohanan) and art direction (Priya Raghunathan). Witness the investigation scenes following each murder and how the camera zooms through the circumference of each location as if relating some story. Whatever the inspirations for his thriller, Roby Grewal comes up with innovative ideas when it came to giving out clues with each murder without getting too gory (something which was the case in Bone Collector) along with his attention for details for the most inconspicuous of things (especially in the investigation scenes and the chase sequence in the slums). Also, the desired effect is created not just through chills and thrills, but also through the way he has depicted the crime solving ideas and techniques that engross the viewer to the most part.
Sushmita Sen puts in a charming performance (and probably her best) and one of the reasons this flick clicks is because of the use of vulnerability and at the same time, the integrity of a female character (rather than the clich├ęd male heroism), which Sushmita Sen (a la India┬┤s best police officer) carries out very well through her tremendous body language. It would be debatable whether Sushmita can (or cannot) perform up to the best performances put in by her contemporaries, but I can say without a doubt that there would hardly be anybody among her contemporaries who can match her as Malvika Chauhan. Sushant Singh is good as the assistant and there are a couple of sequences where he can say he ┬┤owns┬┤ them. However, he is still limited by the ┬┤Yes Madams┬┤ and the ┬┤No Madams┬┤ here when compared to his very good performance in Rajkumar Santoshi┬┤s The Legend of Bhagat Singh. Other performances are adequate, where Rajesh Khera (as the doctor) makes his mark. Finally coming to the main killer, he doesn┬┤t have many scenes. But he does have the main scene at the climax and comes out as cold-blooded as they get and he definitely makes an impact.
Overall, Samay makes a very interesting viewing and after sitting through this well-pitched enterprise, the viewer definitely has a sense of satisfaction. More than anything it is a triumph for the versatile Sushmita Sen, especially coming after her very under-estimated performance in Filhaal. Next to watch for Sushmita Sen would be "It was Raining That Night", the English version of Mahesh Manjrekar┬┤s Astitva that would prove her versatility even more. Coming from a newbie director Roby Grewal, makes Samay an even more commendable effort.