Toothless Blackmail

Source: The Hitavada      Date: 07 Apr 2018 11:30:15




By Farina Salim Quraishi

“We want to revolutionise things…” says Omi Vaidya, playing Boss DK in Blackmail. In sync with these sentiments, Abhinay Deo’s dark comedy is an unorthodox take on adultery and deception. But given the fact that different does not guarantee brilliance, Deo’s audacious saga of infidelity and greed is undone by a flat execution, falling many notches short of being the gripping ride the quirky trailers promised it would be. Dev Kaushal (Irrfan Khan) works at a toilet paper selling firm. Bored with his job as he is with life, Dev whiles away time in office. Caught in a loveless marriage, Dev and his wife Reena (Kirti Kulhari) are leading a humdrum life, with plummeting passion (at least for each other) adding to their woes.

‘Surprise her…, with flowers’, advises Dev’s cheeky colleague Anand (Pradhuman Singh). Taking the cue, Dev heads home unannounced and gets a surprise, a nasty one, for himself. Reena is in bed with her old flame, Ranjit Arora (Arunoday Singh), confident in the knowledge of her husband’s boring routine. A shattered Dev after some graphic daydreaming comes up with a plan for revenge. Given that he is a very non-violent person, Dev decides to punish Ranjit by blackmailing him. A message here, an email there and Dev is on a roll raking in the moolah. However, things seeming ‘simple’ on the surface, soon start to go astray as more and more characters join the blackmailing wagon, each with an agenda of his own.

If only Dev Kaushal actually did even half of the things he imagines in vivid detail, Blackmail would’ve been some movie. For a good portion of the film, Khan wishfully imagines killing several characters in ways that would make Final Destination makers proud. Making use of things as innocuous as a bedside lamp, a shelf, or even good old stairs to startling effect, the dreams are dramatic. But unfortunately, they remain just that taking away the teeth from the James Hardly Chase-ish plot. Director Abhinay Deo squanders a promising premise by focusing on the periphery and never taking things beyond the horizon.

So we have a thriller where all the dots (there aren’t too many to start with) are joined neatly, things are oversimplified and a suspense which plays out like a one-note song. Granted point and plausibility aren’t exactly list-toppers while making a dark comedy –an adult one at that- but certain quotient of sense is not too much to ask for.  But that certain ‘something’ is a tall order in the movie, which is a classic case of a good concept being undone by poor execution. Do cops really go around warning potential murder suspects saying, “I’ll be coming for you in a couple of days, don’t run off, will you…”, well in Blackmail police inspectors do precisely this and more.

After debuting with the uproariously funny Delhi Belly, losing his way in between with a few duds, Abhinay Deo is back in familiar territory but sparkles sporadically. It’s hard to look away from the madness of the topsy-turvy events, even as your dazed senses struggle to soak in the delicious depravity of it all. Eccentric twists and turns keep popping up now and then, keeping things from going under completely.  The narrative is packed with multiple hurdles which range from wacky, wicked to plain bizarre; all fodder for a good laugh. The black comedy is enjoyable when it’s not being undone by the insipid plot that goes around in circles. The near-linear narrative is flat, with no trough of the thriller reaching a crescendo. Also, the shoddy editing is another killjoy.

At 139 minutes, the film is way too long and gets repetitive regularly. There is only as much of house interior sequence that one can enjoy. The endless shots of Arunoday Singh’s ultra-posh house and Irrfan Khan’s basic accommodation jar as do frequent sequences of Irrfan Khan’s bathroom sojourns for a handful of moments of gratification. The scenes are as shocking as they are absurd and do absolutely nothing for the story other than making it cringe-worthy. The effortless way Irrfan Khan goes about playing Dev - with a sly dog chutzpah - needs to be seen to be believed. Despite the weak character sketch, Irrfan elevates the role with his flawless portrayal. The shifty eyes, the uncertain gait and even the droopy demeanour, all paint a fantastic picture of a regular loser. Underplaying the role with sublime restraint, Irrfan makes Dev impossible to hate despite his devious ways. Kirti Kulhari, despite limited screen time, shines brightly. While Arunoday Singh as the dim-witted toyboy is in terrific form.

Divya Dutta is a scene-stealer as Ranjit’s drunk and dominating wife. Distrustful and contemptuous of her philandering husband, Divya delights with her mock-cruel ways. Other characters, including the very talented Pradhuman Singh, Anuja Sathe and Gajraj Rao are value additions. However, Omi Vaidya, still sailing in 3 Idiots shadow, plays Boss DK is an extension of Chatur Ramalingam from the iconic blockbuster.  A little too black to be outrightly funny and a tad too slow be to be edgy, Blackmail fails to shine as brightly as it premise but grin-worthy it sure is. Watch it, if only for the brilliant Irrfan Khan.

The Hitavada Rating: