Before we write any further…The million dollar question is should we be critiquing this film that turns the spotlight on us, the movie critics? In short, it is ‘critics ka critic’. But whatever may be the fate of critics in the film…We are sticking our neck out and trying to review Balki’s film as honestly as possible. Without a doubt, as with all of Balki’s films, the premise is unusual and packaged in an interesting manner. Does it live up to its full potential is once again a question mark.
A serial killer is on the prowl and guess who his targets are; the film critics whom he not only butchers mercilessly, but also leaves stars on their foreheads. And that alone is not the only indictment of reviewers and star-rating system. Much revolves around the business of movie critics, their impact on the lives of artistes, the business of cinema and more. Do reviews make or mar a film? Can they affect a film’s business or in the age of social media audience is the real deciding factor? Once again questions for which there are no definitive answers.
It’s not as if Balki is trying to answer them for us or is trying to rubbish the role of critics or reviews. Rather, he has Big B extolling why fearless and unbiased critics are ‘oh so important’. Indeed, can there be a Balki film without his customary ode to Amitabh Bachchan? But the maker to whom Balki pays a tribute here is none other than the great Guru Dutt. So not only do songs from his films waft in delightfully, we see his portrait, flashes from his films and also made to realise how his masterpiece Kaagaz Ke Phool was panned by critics back then. So much for film appreciation and the knowledgeable tribe of critics…We get the message…In the long scheme of things do they even matter?
Indeed, with a critic-turned-writer Raja Sen on the writing board as a co-writer, the world of critics is an insider’s view. Even if a bit loaded against them, it brings to us their many kinds, from those who can be bought to the ignorant ones. But whether you agree or disagree with what the film has to say about movie critics, its real strength lies in how it marries a thriller, a tribute and the world of cinema. Yet another plus is even though like Andhadhun, the identity of the killer is revealed early on, we are totally invested in how he will be caught.
Besides, humour is not just spot on, but intelligent and that is some achievement for a film about serial killing in full ‘blood and gore’ glory. And despite tailing a heartless murderer, the film has its fair share of romance and tulips. Cinema’s escapist feel is captured well by cinematographer Vishal Sinha and it helps that our hero is a florist. Dulquer Salmaan is so good as the psychopath who is now tender now brutal that he makes you forget some of the incongruities in the film’s script.
So questions like what is the recent trigger that sets him off on a killing spree 10 years after, fall by the side. But one that rankles is: Could his tragic backstory been avoided? But here again Balki wants to make a point…In OTT-driven entertainment-scape, who can predict what will grab eyeballs? But here, it’s not just Dulquer Salmaan who has our attention. It’s refreshing to see Sunny Deol back on silver screen with a role tailor-made for him. As the cop on the tail of the killer, he is in excellent and restrained form. Shreya Dhanwanthary playing the newbie entertainment writer Nila and romantic love interest is thoroughly impressive. Pooja Bedi too fits the part of a maverick psychoanalyst.
Yes, a lot feels pretentious in this narrative of love-hate relationship between filmmakers and critics yet a lot is imbued with meaning. After all the love story between the killer and the film writer has not been thrown in for effect alone. Finally, while it reinforces how cinema is art…On the art of critical writing…Well, we better be ‘chup’. But let us admit the film with a quirky core is more than watchable.