Marketed like a romantic comedy (the posters tell you He’s Lazy, She’s Crazy), Rajkumar Gupta’s Ghanchakkar is nothing like the promos make it out to be. It’s not a romcom. In fact, there is no romance. It is a twisted dark comedy.

Vidya Balan’s is just an extended cameo. In fact, Rajesh Sharma and Namit Das have bigger roles. Ghanchakkar is more in the space of the lesser-known Ek Chalis Ki Last Local, but with big stars. And it wears the spirit of the small, uncompromising indie proudly, as Rajkumar Gupta (who made his debut with Aamir and followed it up with No One Killed Jessica) is brave enough to throw in uncomfortably dark twists that is making this film unpopular and maybe less profitable (than what it could have been if it was just some lame, feel-good comedy about an odd couple — one lazy and the other crazy).

Ghanchakkar ought to be a marketing case study for studios that want to back offbeat scripts.

Lesson 1: Never market feel bad as feel good. That’s like promising Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge and giving us Devdas. People who are coming to feel good will feel let down and people who hate feel good anyway wouldn't show up.

Lesson 2: Learn from that poster of Ghanchakkar that says “Remember not to forget”. Remember not to forget Lesson 1.

If you go with an open mind, you will find Ghanchakkar full of surprises. But yes, the pace is a little slow, some of the early laughs from Rajesh Sharma and Namit Das take a little getting used to as they look at each other and laugh for no apparent reason but villainy!

Slowly, you settle into this lazily told crazy story about a robber who forgets where he hid the stash. His mind is a ticking timebomb that is erasing his memory little by little and his mates are losing patience. Can he trust his wife, does she know more than what she pretends to? Did his best friend betray him?

These are the questions that the makers employ to play mind games with the audience. If you are getting frustrated and annoyed, it is not because the director has failed but because he has succeeded in putting you in the shoes of the protagonist with fading memory. Until the end, we only see and hear what he sees and hears. We have lived his bizarre life with him, experienced his frustration first hand and are helpless, unable to judge the characters around him.

While most filmmakers would have exploited this situation for laughs or thrills, Rajkumar Gupta makes it a character study.

Not that it is entirely dark all through. The laughs keep coming and the subtle ones are more effective than the contrived comic ones. But the actors make it work, Vidya being the weakest of them all despite being a sport. She plays a walking talking fashion disaster, an author-backed character she lets down with her affected Punjabi accent. Emraan Hashmi keeps a poker face all through, until the last act when the actors begin to scream, one louder than the other, as the frustration heightens.

What makes most of this fun is the “spot the movie reference” as the makers pay tribute to actors, movies and situations, especially the most used and abused premise — Hindi cinema’s favourite — Yaadasht (Memory loss).

A few years ago, Rajat Kapoor’s Mithya wickedly used this plot device to explore character and behaviour.

Ghanchakkar almost succeeds too. But sadly, though it is fun as you watch it unfold, it is also mostly forgettable, offering us very few moments to hold on to.

Genre: Dark Comedy

Director: Rajkumar Gupta

Cast: Emraan Hashmi, Vidya Balan, Rajesh Sharma, Namit Das

Storyline: A bank robber losing his memory must remember where he hid the stash within a week as his partners run out of patience

Bottomline: The posters are misleading, this one is a slow-paced, bizarre dark comedy with extreme violence, a little inconsistent in tone but mostly fun