The expression of disbelief and loud shriek that goes off after a character sees his or her loved one’s cold corpse for the first time is engraved in every Hindi movie buff’s memory.
In the beginning, it felt dramatic and moving. When it began to show up routinely, randomly, the desired effect wore out. But the need to portray it in the same timeworn fashion did not.
For freshness, some perceptive actors would stretch their scream or cut it short or, still better; the camera would linger on that single teardrop resting on the rim of their eye.
Sanjay Gupta’s Kaabil, produced by Rakesh Roshan, is a lot like that. It latches on to predictability like comfort food and weaves a handicap around its leading man for novelty.
You know how in those Bollywood parodies, an enthusiastic writer will always narrate his box office smashing script to the picky director? ‘Aur sir, twist yeh hai ke hero dekh nahi sakta. Audience paagal ho jayegi.’ (Sir, let’s make the hero blind, audience will go crazy.)
It’s a done to death story — a shattered husband taking law into his own hands to punish the men who hurt his wife. Amitabh Bachchan’s Aakhri Raasta spill over a couple of decades to depict a shaggy senior citizen’s serialised revenge even as his policeman son does his best to avert the events, Mohra condensed it in one grisly flashback detailing Suniel Shetty’s unstoppable rampage.
If we are still doing this, something as foreseeable needs skillful deception to engage.
But Sanjay Gupta’s retribution drama, powered by Hrithik Roshan’s steady intensity and a solid supporting cast, doesn’t pull off anything extraordinary with its visually challenged contrivance except whip up as many puns possible. From blind date to blind justice, it’s all there.
Roshan plays Rohan Bhatnagar, a dubbing artist who falls in ‘love at first sight’ with Su/Supriya (Yami Gautam sinks under the weight of a frustratingly feeble characterisation), a pianist after a mutual acquaintance fixes them up. They’re both blind, sport the same streak of blonde in their hair and flash their cloying smiles till their optimistic view of life is drilled firmly into the viewer’s head.
Even as one dreary song establishes their romance, another their marital status, your eye wanders off to notice Hrithik plugging his brand HRX, the tacky production values and a staggeringly schlocky CGI. He may have gone easy on his beloved filters but Kaabil is also the least slick thing to come out of Gupta’s stable.
Once the strategic props (shoes, watches, under-construction buildings) have grabbed their spot and happiness has overstayed its welcome, it is nasty’s turn to take over.
Gupta spares us graphic discomfort but the cringe-inducing demeanour and innuendoes of the influential (Rohit and Ronit Roy) and corrupt (Girish Kulkarni, Narendra Jha) do their share of damage.
The latter one hour of its 140-minutes length is dedicated to Rohan’s organised vendetta against the bad guys using his Mystique-like mimicking powers and Daredevil senses. What follows though is often more clumsy than cunning.
Kaabil is the sort of film where everyone goes out of his way to share a secret.
In a completely implausible move, Ronit Roy visits Hrithik’s house simply to tell him what his horrid brother did. The in-your-face approach impresses Hrithik so much he heads to the police station and give the cops a sneak peak of his destructive schemes.
Cinematic revenge gets its come-on from tension or ferocity. If it’s quick, it has to be savage. If it’s slow-cooked, it must create pressure. The action in Kaabil is vigorous but middling. The telephonic shtick driving it gets stale after a point and the pay off feels too little, too easy.
The trigger point of his revenge may be an issue that plagues the country to disturbing levels but it serves nothing beyond an unabashed platform to vaunt a seething Hrithik, sentimental Hrithik, snarky Hrithik, sly Hrithik or spry Hrithik.
Only haven’t we already seen these avatars in far more accomplished films and forms?