Action thrillers with a twist to them rarely come in Bollywood, and even when they do, they take the form of Cash, which was the biggest con-job ever, where the audiences were conned of their money with four-minutes of action that was already a part of the theatrical promos. And if it’s not Cash, it has to take the form of either a Ghajini or a Wanted or even a Dabangg, either of which are Tamil rip-offs and/or masala flicks, which work more often than not. Of course, there’s an occasional Acid Factory or a Prince that impressed me, but it seems in the whole crowd I was one of the very few. Myself having been a fan of suspense thrillers and action flicks ever since the time of Nasir Hussain’s Teesri Manzil, Vijay Anand’s Jewel Thief; even the classic murder mystery Gumnaam by Raja Nawathe, has made me want to follow all kinds of action thrillers and thrillers alike, and this was no less on the list of watchable and expectable.
I’m a fan of Agatha Christie, and in fact, read a lot of it even now when most of the books are re-runs for my mind. I could draw one such book (And Then There Were None, a base of inspiration for Gumnaam) and it’s sly connection with the film at the start, which set a base for the film and it’s makers. It is right then that I had come to know that the makers were looking out for the making of an old-fashioned thriller at heart complete with style and gloss on the outside, and substance on the inside.
And believe it or not, they’ve succeeded. With a pace that reminded me of the very first of the Jason Bourne movie franchise – The Bourne Identity by Doug Liman – slow, yet steady, with it’s graph gradually rising upward till the interval, when Kangana Ranaut’s character Sia Malhotra firmly and knowingly says, “It’s not over.”
On the night of the 22nd of August, 2007, an accident took place. Cut to the present day in Samos, Greece, where billionaire Kabir Malhotra (Anupam Kher), with the help of his assistant Samara Shroff (Gauhar Khan), arranges for four individuals to be on their way to his huge island. But wait – the movie delves deeper into the character sketches of these individuals and all of them have a dirty past. In Bangkok, a frustrated O. P. Ramsay (Boman Irani) needs a clean source of funds to improve his image. Somewhere else, in Mumbai, actor Vikram Kapoor (Jimmy Shergill) needs a getaway from what he’s recently done. Shifting to London, crime reporter Tisha (Shahana Goswami) is caught drunk driving, and needs someone to believe in her.
Finally, there’s Istanbul, where a casino owner Neil Menon, needs enough money to pay the Colombians. Each of them gets a letter by Kabir Malhotra luring them into the island under the pretext of their own economic weaknesses, only to know that they are in some revenge trap hole courtesy Malhotra, whose estranged daughter Maya (Sarah Jane Dias) was part of an enormous racket involving Ramsay and later Menon, finally being hit by a car drunk-driven by Vikram Kapoor. Everything is set – the IVS officers are called from London to arrest the three individuals involved in her disintegration, but then occurs a hitch. The next day, Kabir Malhotra’s shot dead in what looks like a successful suicide attempt. Only IVS investigating officer Sia thinks there’s more to it. And Neil knows that very well.
Let me first applaud the writer Althea Delmas Kaushal for keeping the screenplay completely original with only a dose of healthy inspiration from the ambience of the yesteryear thrillers and thriller novels. Farhan Akhtar’s dialogue is to the point, and doesn’t really beat around the bush. Now the film is more or less a character driven, and focuses more on the character development and revelation than its story for the first half of the film, all the way till it’s pre-intermission portions, where it’s not just the four visitors but also the police officer who is introduced, and for whom a base is formed.
The post-intermission reels though take you on a rollercoaster ride that consists of twists, more twists and even more twists until you finally come to the ending which is as unexpected as rains right now. Diving down to the technical aspects, we all know that producers Farhan Akhtar and Ritesh Sidhwani never fall short of creating a technically fantastic product even if they’re tight on budget. Kartik Vijay’s delicious cinematography of the locales of London, Istanbul, Greece and Mumbai, coupled with terrific camerawork just add to the gloss and the glam the film’s looking for.
Before I end on the camerawork, I’d like to add that there’s some amazing handheld camerawork for the action sequences by Allan Amin, who keeps most of the action choreography for the film subtle, understated and to-the-point, which not just reminds us of the latter parts of the Bourne franchise (The Bourne Supremacy, The Bourne Ultimatum) and Green Zone directed by Paul Greengrass, but also makes the whole situation look real.
Editing by Amitabh Shukla is buttery when needed and tight when needed, and this is where the pace is actually formed for the film, smoothly flitting back and forth to culminate into an excellent non-linear narrative. The opening title sequence is stunning and forms perfect base post the very short prologue of the film. The background score by Ram Sampath packs mind-blowing intensity and fits the scenes well.
What falters here is the music by Shankar, Ehsaan and Loy, which fails to make any impact, barring a melodious ”Maine Yeh Kab Socha Tha” and a sensuous 50s to 70s styled ”Mehki Mehki”, which thankfully are the only two songs present in the whole film. The title song is situational and is rightly placed in the opening sequence, but of course if heard individually it wouldn’t really make for an iPod keep.
Coming to the performances, I would have to state that post Bluffmaster!, this one officially has to be the coolest role Abhishek Bachchan has ever played, and he pulls it off with extreme panache! Be it the action sequences or his know-it-all attitude, you will be impressed with his extreme confidence playing the role. Boman Irani pulls off a politico convincingly. Kangana Ranaut is impressive, and it’s heartening to see she’s actually working hard on her dialogue delivery to fit the roles she’s choosing! Take a bow Kangana!
Shahana Goswami is a natural and a charmer; it’s too bad she couldn’t get through most of the second half of the film, as I would want to see more of her. The person who takes the least of the cake is newcomer Sarah Jane Dias in her role of the mysterious Maya and though she has little or no dialogues, whatever she say or does has immense promise. Provided she makes the right choices, she has it in her to shine like a star, as she has the looks and the acting chops!
Jimmy Shergill is a bit of a downer, and though he comes up with a decent performance, he overdoes it in some places. Anupam Kher and Gauhar Khan in their short roles are perfect. Kher doesn’t really need any compliments because his performances are flawless. We can see that Khan is improving with each film and is slowly becoming one of my favorites.
What wouldn’t work in the film for some sections of the audience should be the slow pace of the film in its pre-intermission reels, which take time to develop a strong character base for each character for the film to start its madness in the second hour, but once seen from the point of view of a whodunit lover, you’ll get exactly why the makers Deo, Kaushal and Akhtar were going that way.
I have loved the whole aspect of murder mysteries and action thrillers, and it’s rare that we get something as good and as original as this on-screen! Watch this for the terrific performances of Bachchan, Kher and Ranaut, the fantastic screenplay and its technical brilliance!