T-Series Films and Ramesh Deo Productions present “Blackmail”
Produced by: Bhushan Kumar, Krishan Kumar, Abhinay Deo, Apurba Sengupta
Directed by: Abhinay Deo
Written by: Parveez Sheikh & Pradhuman Singh Mall
Music: Amit Trivedi & Badshah
Starring: Irrfan Khan, Kirti Kulhari, Arunoday Singh, Divya Dutta, Pradhuman Singh Mall, Anuja Sathe, Omi Vaidya, Gajraj Rao, Anuja Anil Sathe, Abhijit Chavan, Nav Ratan Singh Rathore, Vibha Chibbar, Pravina Deshpande, Rajesh Khatri, Anjali Ujawane, Manohar Teli, Atul Kale, Ankush Deshmukh, Suresh Yadav, Sahebdas Manikpuri, Sharad Jadhav, Mayur Kachave, Neelima Azim
Sp. Appearance: Urmila Matonkar
Dark comedies should be dark but also comedies. That’s the definition, right? They need to be about stories with certain elements that are consistently funny for the audience but are singularly unfunny for the characters. And “Blackmail” is supposed to be one, right?
Well, then, we wonder why things get a little too overdone in the second half. There is a shade too much of (needless) bloodshed (in such films, a little bit is permissible to maintain the tenor), and the crispness of the first half also goes for a toss. Another victim in most of the second half is subtlety: the wonderful add-on virtue of this film right from the beginning, like when the hero enters the car park in his office building, there is a luxury SUV in front of him, he opens his automobile with his remote key, and drives away in a plain and small car parked invisibly next to it!
“Blackmail” revolves around middle-class Dev Kaushal (Irrfan Khan) and his loveless and mechanical marriage to Reena (Kirti Kulhari), so much so that he stays late by himself in his office. A colleague, Anand (Prdhuman Singh Mall), goads him into giving due attention to his wife by once surprising her early with flowers (orchids, he intonates, using the “ch” sound as in childing!). Dev decides to obey him (you have to watch how he manages the flowers!). But in his home, Reena is in bed with a man (Arunoday Singh), something he sees through a crack in the door!
After fantasizing that he kills him or her, a distraught Dev follows him when he leaves, finds out that his name is Ranjit Arora, and that he too is in a marriage of convenience with a politician’s daughter Dolly Verma (Divya Dutta) who treats him along with her parents (Neelima Azim and Nav Ratan Singh Rathore) akin to a mentally-backward dog! It turns out Reena and Ranjit were to marry but did not due to some issues that we do not want to reveal here. But Dev never gets to knows that.
The next day, when Dev’s boss (Omi Vaidya) refuses him a raise due to constraints, he finally decides to blackmail Ranjit. Ranjit has no money and suggests that Reena ask Dev, who himself is struggling with his loans and installments. Reena, pretending that her invalid father needs tests, does ask Dev, who even gives her money.
The blackmail game gets murkier as Ranjit and Reena get desperate, for the shrewd parasite Ranjit also begins to blackmail Reena, and also asks his wife Dolly for money to start a business. Dev confides in Anand, and the latter, when inebriated, confesses this to new office employee Prabha (Anuja Anil Sathe) who he wants to take to bed! And Prabha is no paragon: she starts blackmailing Dev as well. Prabha is “murdered” and the police arrest Anand on Dev’s statement. The game progresses as Ranjit finally employs shady private eye Chawla (Gajraj Rao) to identify the blackmailer, who does not bother about anything other than his profit!
As we said before, all this could have been classic dark humor had it not been for a stretched second half and needless bloodshed, that too of largely innocent people. How Dev exposes her paramour’s deceitful ways to his wife Reena and her remorse is interesting, but what Dev does, in the end, makes little logic or sense. Also, there is a wee bit too much of coarseness in the office that specializes in making toilet paper: the humor is not always the right kind to match the rest of the film’s tone, and is only mildly funny on occasion.
Parveez Sheikh’s plot is interesting but a shade too convoluted, but Mall’s lines are often hilarious and witty. Technically, the film is also sound, the dark camerawork (Jay Oza) embellishing the mood. Mikey MacCleary’s background score is interesting enough, but the songs are greatly loud and intrusive, and “Bewafa Beauty” must rank among Urmila Matondkar’s worst item numbers. Lyrically, however, most of the songs do seem to be penned well,
Deo directs with a chutzpah that pales before his delightful “Delhi Belly” (or is that the usual Aamir Khan Syndrome so common among his directors?) and with a stylized swag that is far ahead of his debut directorial “Game.” Despite the flaws we talk about above, the film is a whacky ride when on and time passes in a fun way except in the last 20 minutes – the movie could have been whipped into shape as a 120-minute caper instead of being at 139.
For a change, Irrfan Khan is far from being essentially the same. His intentionally blank expressions and deadpan kind of tone is suitably changed here in keeping with his generally harangued character. Arunoday Singh and Divya Dutta steal the show with their effortless work, Singh dwarfing Dutta in the final analysis. Kulhari has nothing much to do, while Pradhuman Singh and Omi Vaidya overdo their bit, especially Vaidya who keeps showing his limitations. Anuja Anil Sathe is a delight, and Gajraj Rao and Vibha Chibber are fun too as the slimy detective and the gun dealer.
Rating: ***1/2 (Almost)