Movies

‘Blackmail’ review: Theatre of the absurd

The poster of 'Blackmail'

The poster of 'Blackmail'  

A lonely man sitting way past office hours, not for work, but to play Pacman; going back home late to stare (Norman Bates like) at his sleeping wife from a peeping hole in the wall than be near her; warming up the dinner in the microwave and eating all alone. The lack of communication between the couple, more so the alarming routine and Irrfan Khan’s subtle formulation and expression of it set the ball rolling for a film that actually goes at an entirely different tangent just a few minutes later. No room for poignancy in this Abhinay Deo outing; it’s all about dredging out the essential wickedness, even in the best of human beings.

So we have Dev (Irrfan Khan) deciding to reach home early one day to surprise his wife Reena (Kirti Kulhari) only to find her in bed with her lover Ranjit (Arunoday Singh), who, in turn, is betraying his “corporator ki beti” wife Dolly (Divya Dutta). A moment of hurt later Dev decides to use this as an opportunity to extract some money from Ranjit--to clear off his EMIs and other dues. Little does he anticipate the chain of extortions it would set off. Blackmailing leads to counter-blackmailing as money keeps changing hands.

Abhinay Deo sets up the action well and keeps you engaged for a while. However, somewhere in the middle things begin to slacken and you begin hankering for a closure that takes its own sweet time in coming. There is wickedness all around but the film could have done with more sharpness, tartness, bite and sting. It falls way too short of an absurd, madcap, merry lark that it could have very well been.

  • Director: Abhinay Deo
  • Starring: Irrfan Khan, Divya Dutta, Kirti Kulhari, Arunoday Singh
  • Run time: 139 minutes
  • Storyline: A cuckold decides to extort money from his wife’s lover little anticipating the chain of blackmails it would lead to.

Each and every character is quirky, save Dev himself. In fact they are all seen from his eye-view; and he seems to regard them as cartoons than human beings. Irrfan Khan digs his teeth well into Dev. He is specially good in the scene when the betrayal dawns on him and in just a few shots he communicates all the emotions at a go--disbelief, bewilderment, hurt, anger, suffocation. His weariness has you rooting for him; for his extortion racket to succeed.

It’s perhaps the longest role that Arunoday Singh has got in a while and he is adequate, if not scintillating, as the hunky-pretty toy-boy. Women have little to do other than being the propellers of the story but Divya Dutta does manage to bring her own shade of dark fun to the the alcoholic, dissipated Dolly as does Gajraj Rao to detective Chawla, who, unfortunately, seems to be an afterthought in the script. A potentially interesting character wasted. The rest of the pack is irritating; I am finding it difficult to pick up who was the worst--the stupid boss or the obnoxious office colleague.

There are some bits I couldn’t swallow. The nice, simple, middle class man that he is, Dev wouldn’t ask for more moolah than what he requires for his immediate needs. Just Rs 1 lakh! I would have certainly added a couple of more zeros at the end. It’s as difficult to fathom how noone could have found out about his misdemeanours in the office washroom with the photos of his colleagues’ wives.

But what’s most difficult to understand is the inane product placement for Sofit soya milk. Energy aside how can such a boring, healthy thing (even in chocolate flavour) be a post-coital drink? I haven’t been able to wrap this one around my head. Or did I miss a joke there?

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Printable version | Sep 19, 2020 7:00:01 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/entertainment/movies/blackmail-review-theatre-of-the-absurd/article23455308.ece

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