Monday, October 20, 2003

Samay: when the clock strikes Se7en {WARNING: spoilers galore}

This has to be Sushmita Sen's best performance yet. Although the makeup's a tad overdone and too squeaky clean, her poise, dialogue delivery and confidence are to die for (no pun intended). On a personal note, although the released soundtrack (reviewed here) features a ton of songs, there is just one official entry as credited in the film (apart from the snatches from the background score and the title track, with a voiceover from director Robby Grewal): Lucy Bartholemew, another addition to the list of phaaren-born nubilias wiggling tush and scantily-clad assets in item songs, jiggles about in this single song, laailaa laailaa before getting strangled for having broken the narrative flow. Sushant Singh lends able support as Satya (reading too deep: a dig at RGV?), one of several underwritten characters. The film has several problems, the least of which are the red herrings, which are embarassing. But first the other annoyances: while it's great that a woman's the ACP, having everyone else around her appear to be relative idiots does not come across well -- it's like having William Petersen hog the limelight in CSI. The background score (Chowta again) works well and so do the dark sequences -- ahh so few. Most of the other moments seem false -- especially when the camera itself grabs us saying "hey, this is a red herring. Let me get you to start doubting something that's happening here" (case in point: when "Doc" the forensics expert asks ACP Malvika Chauhan about the case).

The most obvious inspirations are David Fincher's wonderfully chilling and original Se7en and to a very very small degree, The Bone Collector (ref: the bedridden Sabharwal telling ACP Chauhan about his failure to track down a serial killer). The former being filched marks a new low in Bollywood cinema. Firstly, Fincher's film had something very fundamental going for it: a good storyline. Once you have that, the sky is the limit for embellishments. Grewal impolitely filches portions of that film (more about that in a moment) and then re-packages stuff up for mainstream consumption. The idea of replacing David Mills with a woman, ACP Chauhan, arguably does add a different dynamic to the plot. However, the interesting William Somerset becomes the ineffectual Satya. And finally, Kevin Spacey's hidden (and later cultified) John Doe (who is literally a nobody in the film) becomes an IPS examination failure called Amod Parekh, who wants to convince ACP Chauhan that he was always better than she was. iDream Entertainment's favourite actor Jackie Shroff emerges from the shadows as Amod Parekh and does a really good job in the brief role hampered only by some pointless dialogue (and perhaps a hangover from his stint in teen deewarein). The rationale of the killer (officially: punishing the people who are the best in their respective fields (the youngest millionaire in the country, a young National Award-winning hit actress who shakes her tushy for skimpy-clad dances; the top contract killer in Bombay); along with the same eyesight disability -- a power of minus 2.0!!; the same optician) goes from simple to "why why why" to undefinably impossible. Any coherence that the plot could have derived from its Fincher legacy is shattered to bits and no one (not even Sen who, in the abrupt climax, has to destroy everything good she has achieved with her performance thus far) can save it from tomatoes and eggs. This is unfortunate. Clearly, there was a potential for a nice thriller. Fincher didn't make his film an out-and-out thriller or a whodunit. There was a strong unnerving plot (religious overtones are always scary!) and a dank, wet, dark, gloomy atmosphere to the proceedings. And while that film covered the events of a week, Grewal's directorial début spans a leisurely month.

pointless trivia (yes, meaningless phrase that!): The film opens with a clip from Vertigo (the sequence leading up to Madeline's death at the chapel). Also featured in the film are the classic video game PacMan and a McDonald's drive-in in Panvel. Incidentally, "Doc" is played by Rajesh Khera, who was last seen as the ill-fated smoking customer at the motel in Darna Mana Hai. The credits list a special appearance by Geetanjali Kirloskar: is she the head of Lintertainment??

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