the body review

Rishi Kapoor plays an officer investigating a hugely suspicious death. (photo provided)

It’s all about the death of young tycoon Maya Verma (Sobhita Dhulipala), whose body is kept in the morgue in Mauritius, where she is based. Her husband, Ajay Puri (Emraan Hashmi), who looks after her pharmaceutical division, and even gives lectures, does not seem to be grieving all that much. That’s because he has a girlfriend in Ritu (Vedhika Kumar), but it’s a secret.

In fact, Ajay wants to kill his wife, who treats him whimsically well and callously, so that he can go away with Ritu. This is after he comes to know that Maya has legally arranged that he will receive nothing if he ever leaves her.

However, after he plans a clever murder with a poison that works slowly and will mimic a heart attack, the body disappears from the morgue, and he is caught in a minor but very indicative lie by investigating officer Jairaj Rawal (Rishi Kapoor). Jairaj, coming from the traumatic past of an accident in which he lost his wife a decade before, immediately suspects that Ajay has killed Maya, though his team of cops Pawan (Anupam Bhattachraya) and the forensic doctor (Rukhsar) tell him to go by logic and evidence and not by emotions. Jairaj insists that Ajay has hidden the body as his foul play would be exposed.

And then events tend to indicate that Maya is actually still alive, or at least her spirit is.

Like the excellent “Phobia” some years ago, “The Body” (adapted from a Spanish film with its title “El Cuerpo” meaning a corpse), “The Body” treads for a while that thin line between thriller and horror. What is more important, however, is the fact that after a rather slow start, the film picks up to deliver a deadly punch.

Oriol Paulo, the Spanish filmmaker who also wrote the original of “Badla,” is an ace at largely locating his films in one place (in this case the Forensic Laboratory) and using the theme of cold-blooded revenge against evil, but it’s a guessing game until the very end about the truth and the culprit.

Come to think of it, these Spanish thrillers are so much more exciting than the dark Korean movies on which many Hindi films have been based, and also the fact that in 2019, we have had a thriller-rich year in which most of the plot lines of this genre of films are based on revenge!

“The Body” moves at a leisured rather than frenetic pace, and this is where the run- time comes in. At 103 minutes, it makes the film supremely gripping and exciting, despite the lack of twists and turns. Whatever happens is in sync with the plot line, even including the attendant at the morgue “seeing” Maya’s corpse walk away with his eyes!

We have no clue how much writer-director Jeethu Joseph (who directed the original Malayalam “Drishyam”) has followed the original (which was actually longer by five minutes!) as he also includes multiple songs, but he executes the suspense and thrill element with gusto.

The atmosphere he creates (rains in a dark night in Mauritius) and the eerie confines of the location, add to the wallop—when it finally comes. The narration is obviously back-and-forth, as we must have a build-up, and an accident shown in the beginning is only explained in the totally unpredictable end.

Joseph extracts the crème from Rishi Kapoor, getting a chunky role to delve into, his gruff, dour persona a superb etch as a character. He is at his best in his interactions with Emraan Hashmi, who also gets his best role in a long time.

The actor does a good job as the scruple-free husband of a woman he has married for her money but hates. His script is meticulous, and if he is the dialogue writer (no other credit is seen), full marks are due for their crisp directness.

Vedhika Kumar is no heroine material, but shines in the scope given to her as Ritu. Pawan Bhattacharya and Rukhsar (she began her career 27 years ago as Kapoor’s lead in “Inteha Pyar Ki”!) are good. So, in a brief cameo, is the actress who plays Ajay’s sister Shayna.

Sobhita Dhulipala, as the mercurial Maya, does brilliantly. In a placid way, with deeply expressive eyes, she steals many a sequence away from Hashmi and is the perfect ruthless tycoon.

The songs have a heavy Mahesh Bhatt banner flavor, and are not always heard in full, but among them, Shamir Tandon’s “Rom Rom” and Arko’s “Aaina” and “Itna Pyar Karo” make for a welcome change from the cacophony around, with decent lyrics and music. The background score is overdone in most parts.

Producer Sunil Khetarpal has taken the rights of two Spanish films from the same writer-filmmaker in a single year. And to his credit, he has spun two of the wonderful thrillers of the year. The other was “Badla.” Guess where this is coming from?

Rating: ****

Produced by: Sunil Khetarpal

Directed by: Jeethu Joseph

Written by: Oriol Paulo & Jeethu Jospeh

Music: Shamir Tandon & Arko

Starring: Rishi Kapoor, Emraan Hashmi, Sobhita Dhulipala, Vedhika Kumar, Rukhsar, Anupam Bhattacharya, & others

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