We, in Bollywood, make a habit of fusing genres together. The audience is also to be blamed, for they demand these ‘family entertainers.’ But it is all changing. There can’t be a better time for Bollywood filmmakers because the audience is currently in the mood to experiment. They have been exposed to world cinema and quality content, and are not willing to settle down for anything less. Which is why sticking to the genre you are promising your audience seems like a great idea. Irrfan Khan-starrer Blackmail sets out to be a black comedy. The trailer itself gives us an inkling into the story of the film. But is that all that’s in store in this Abhinay Deo film? Let’s find out…
What’s it about
The film’s protagonist, Dev Kaushal (Irrfan Khan), is a study in monotony. His life seems to be as insipid as his work – which is selling toilet paper in a country that doesn’t believe in using them. With several EMI deadlines looming large, the last thing he needs is an over-enthusiastic boss who, instead of approving of his pending raise, awards him with a campaign to slog over. However, Dev’s monotonous life doesn’t end in the office. In fact, it is his personal life that makes him stay longer hours at work. You see, his wife, Reena (Kirti Kulhari), doesn’t seem to care about his existence. It seems like all she needs him for is to pay her bills. Which he does, rather diligently, till one day when he finds out all about her rendezvous with her hunk of a lover, Ranjit Arora (Arunoday Singh). But instead of killing him, or confronting her, he resorts to blackmail him when he finds out that he is well off. However, Ranjit is married to Dolly Verma (Divya Dutta), who treats him worse than a pet, giving him a weekly allowance. But what seems like a simple case of blackmailing, spirals out of control. Suddenly, more people are getting involved and some key players are dropping dead.
The story of the film is the winner, hands down, and in a film that stars The Irrfan Khan, this is saying a lot. The film, much like the game, Pac Man, that Dev keeps playing, is all about who devours who, before getting themselves killed. It is a dark, dark comedy that is as good as dark chocolate. There’s humour in the mundane and you only realise that when it is pointed out to you. Which this film does in good measure. It is such a delight to watch a film that doesn’t rely solely on the performance of its lead cast to shine. But that’s not to say that they have not given the film their best shot. Irrfan is in top form – whether he is playing the jilted husband, running on the streets, at once dejected and angry, or he is playing the part of a blackmailer, trying to get out of a sticky situation by misguiding his pursuers with a poker face. You want to know Dev, not because he is interesting, but simply because he is not. His flaws, quirks, insecurities and tricks – all make him a very well-etched character and you can see Irrfan sinking his teeth, breathing life into him. What a delight it is when good actors get to play such nuanced, layered characters! Arunoday Singh, as the bumbling Ranjit, manages to complement Dev. Despite only a brief role, Divya Dutta, as the dominating wife, also makes an impact. We can bet on this that some of the scenes in the film will stay with you for the longest time, like the one where a blind woman sells guns. It is a crash course in how to be hilarious without hammering the point. Everything is subtle. Everything is more than what it seems to be. The film’s background score goes well with the feel of the film too. It keeps things upbeat even when it goes from dark to murky.
A major loose end. Just when it seemed like there could have been nothing wrong in the film, the makers disappointed us by not concluding one very important track. Whatever happened to cop who threatens to arrest Dev? We would certainly want to know more about it. And if there was an explanation, it shouldn’t have been so subtle that we missed it altogether. Also the song featuring Urmila Matondkar seemed a bit forced. As did some scenes in the film that are allowed to languish far too long.
What to do
Watching Blackmail is like riding a roller-coaster – you don’t know as to what will happen next but the mere thrill of it is enough to make you hop on. With so much amusement, it is no wonder that you don’t want the ride to end. It would be criminal to miss this one. An absolute must-watch!