Sunday, May 15, 2005

kasam/blackmail [may 14, 2005]

kasam: Shibu Mittra takes people off the hit[sic] cast of Vishwatma, mixes in a few extra stars, takes the familiar tale of siblings separated by events associated with the murder of a parent only to be re-united in revenge, and then prepares a gourmet serving of yawns. Viju Shah manages to dish out a very dismal and boring set of songs which find fair match on screen thanks to unique combinations of costume, dance movements and locations that have been beaten to death several times before.

A review of the plot points might prove interesting. Parikshit Sahni has played numerous characters who get unjustly bumped off either before the main credits even begin to roll (thus getting posthumous credit for a special appearance) or a few minutes after the final credit has vanished. He is the perfect choice to play the father: a cop who, thanks to the brevity of his role, only enjoys being referred to as Thaakur saahab by the villagers in shaa.ntii nagar. His wife is played by Anjana Mumtaz, another character performer familiar with the trite trappings of the role of happy-wife-becomes-grieving-widow-who-thirsts-for-revenge. Sadashiv Amrapurkar plays the star villain of the piece, a bandit called kaalaa Daakuu. After attacking and snuffing out Sahni's character, he probabilistically chooses one of the two sons and flees, only to toss the kid over the edge of a randomly chosen mount. As fate would have it, the kid lands safe and sound in the back of the truck driven by Hari Singh (Ranjeet), a reformed goon who reveres Sahni. He waits till kaalaa Daakuu is sentenced to life, before approaching the grieving mother with news that her other son has survived. At this point, in a unique bit of ghastly scripting, she announces her forecast for Operation Vengeance. She directs Hari Singh to hang on the boy and raise him "into a rock" while she will raise the other brother as a soldier. This efficient plan for load balanced revenge with failover goes awry later on when the subtle extra playing the soldier son participates (as the receiving end) with his wife and kid in another kaalaa Daaku-initiated massacre, only moments after we are introduced to him. Luckily, mother dearest has another son to rely on. Surprisingly, however, she has not received updates (her choice, it would seem) on his progress and what he looks like right now (Sunny Deol as sha.nkar, driving a truck and flexing muscles). A few more flies get thrown into this tapestry of intrigue. Chunky Pandey plays a convict on the run after jumping a jail, and Naseeruddin Shah plays a pickpocket (in truth, an ASP in disguise) called ma.ngal. Neelam figures as bi.ndiyaa, the third vertex in a love triangle featuring sha.nkar and CP's convict-under-the-guise-of-an-engineer-from-the-city (we find out only very seldom that his name is vijay). Sonu Walia plays bijalii, who waits tables at a Dhaabaa, has the hots for sha.nkar, and gets to say things like "saalaa, jab bhii dil kii baat karatii huu.N, ko_ii naa ko_ii ##bill## kii baat kar detaa hai". CP gets to mouth several double entendres like chalo ##doctor, doctor## khelate hai.n. Naseeruddin Shah, meanwhile, shocks you by participating in the most inane excursions into humour[sic]. When he first gets to the village, he meets vijay and bi.ndiyaa and asks for directions to the police station. After some convoluted directions, CP proceeds to add "magar ##inspector## saahab bagal me.n rahate hai.n" at which point Naseer proceeds to raise CP's right arm to examine his armpit! Later Naseer's character ma.ngal even participates in an exchange of strange dialogue with the zamiinadaar:

zamiinadaar: tum kis khet kii muulii ho?
ma.ngal: arre mai.n muulii nahii.n Thaakur saahab; mai.n to raajaniitii ke khet kii gaajar huu.N; miiThii miiThii ...
zamiinadaar: ye hamaare jawaab [sic] kaa jawaab nahii.n hai

After several long-winded fight sequences, comic excursions, emotional upheavals, and confrontations, kaalaa Daakuu meets his end by being drenched in miTTii kaa tel and set ablaze by mother dearest before she kicks the bucket herself. Given the rules of romantic triangulation, sha.nkar also finds a bucket to kick.

Another thing you can do to keep yourself awake through this inane-fest is to note the familiar faces in ephemeral roles: hemant birje, viju khote (who gets to almost say the 'chuu..." word), tej sapru, sharat saxena (who gets credited once in the opening credits and again in the closing credits), bob christo, radha seth, jagdish raaj and manmauji.

blackmail: This film should make the record books for being perhaps the first action/thriller that is guaranteed to put any insomniac to sleep.

after a set of opening credits set in good sleek, the first shot we are treated to is a camera-titled view of a church. that tilt is enough of a hint that this film was made with a crew that was fixated on the wrong things about the technical aspects of making a movie -- there's more stuff cogged mercilessly, tastelessly and in a most maladroit way from The Matrix (get a life, guys!). there are, to be honest, a couple of nice shots and frames in the film, but the average audience member for this film is probably grabbing some easily-earned dream time as the images flicker on the big screen (or the small screen. YMMV).

robin bhatt and javed siddiqui take A Perfect World and add desi high-concept to it: we have shekhar (devgan), an escape driver out from an 8-eight year jail stint. he's out for revenge. revenge against the man who was responsible for his arrest, and the death of his pregnant wife (diya mirza). the man is sub-inspector/ACP ajay si.nh raatho.D (suniel shetty). the revenge is nicely funded by a request-for-termination from chhoTaa (mukesh rishi). the desii twist -- wait for it -- comes up here: just when you thought this might have been a film in the psychological-thriller space with devgan scaring the creeps out of raatho.D and his shapely wife sanaa (priyanka chopra) a la Unlawful Entry, our screenwriters toss in the cool bollywood variable -- devgan's son survived, and only raatho.D knows more. shekhar now decides to put the ice-the-cop-who-nailed-me plan on hold, and instead decides to kidnap the cop's son chiraag (irritating little skunk) in order to force the cop into telling all. and now our screenwriters loop in the YouHaveGotToBeKidding twist -- chiraag is really shekhar's son.

with these elements in place, it's almost trivial to see that a decent flick could be made. what we get instead is a mix of the following: suniel shetty trying in vain to convince that he can act, be stylish, be cool, be emotionally multi-polar and competent (only coming across as one of the few shettys you wouldn't want to see even waiting tables in a hotel); ajay devgan sleepwalking through a role by reusing components of his previous performances in the brooding, downbeat, measured speech domain; priyanka chopra jiggles about and implements the six-sigma solution to mainstream on-screen histrionics; diya mirza continues to look so fragile she could get blown off by a cockroach breaking wind, traipse and twirl about as flashback material, and look so sad you would think she was a refugee camp resident; mukesh rishi fuming like wet coal. all this mixed with songs and enough footage that if reel-to-electricity conversion were possible, pune would never have any loadshedding issues ever.

a simple example of the inanity rife in the scheme of the goings-on comes when cop boy suniel shetty receives a call from another cop who announces (in the same tone used to announce jail breaks) that devgan's character was released from jail; you would think that if shetty's character were as worried about devgan's character as he is in the film, he would have already found out. and besides, what's the point in getting a phone call in the middle of the night on this account?

do not make the mistake of leaving your brain outside the door as you enter the viewing portal for Blackmail. your empty skull will receive such a drumming that the resonance would kill you.

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