Mumbai, 06 Apr 2018 10:39 IST
Updated: 07 Apr 2018 5:37 IST
A fresh plot, robust screenplay, and superlative performances make Abhinay Deo's Blackmail one of the finest comedies seen of late in Hindi cinema.
Trust is hard to earn and easy to break. This reviewer, unmarried, has often wondered what drives a married person to infidelity, what makes a married couple drift apart and seek solace outside the relationship.
Dev Kaushal (Irrfan Khan) is a simple, honest middle-class salesman working for a small firm called My Handy that sells toiletries. He often works overtime, and is thus unable to give much time to his wife Reena (Kirti Kulhari). The couple lack the bond that usually ties lovers together.
One fine evening, Dev plans to surprise his wife by turning up early, on the advice of his friend Anand (Pradhuman Singh). With all the local florists closed, he steals a bunch of fresh roses from a grave. He hopes to surprise his wife and, perhaps, get lucky between the sheets.
But Dev’s day of joy turns into a nightmare when he catches his ‘sleeping’ beauty in bed with another man.
Though filled with rage, Dev does not resort to violence. Instead, he hatches a plan to blackmail his wife’s lover Ranjit Arora (Arunoday Singh).
Unfortunately for Dev, he is not the only person with blackmailing instincts here. His move to blackmail his wife's lover leads to a domino effect and the amateur blackmailer also ends up paying the ransom. We won’t reveal the chain of blackmails, for that is the USP of this film.
Parveez Sheikh has penned a sharp, potent, witty story backing it up with a gripping screenplay.
Pradhuman Singh, who plays Dev’s best friend, has doubled up as the dialogue writer. He provides Sheikh with crisp, witty dialogues.
With a great story, smooth screenplay and witty dialogues at his disposal, director Abhinay Deo doles out a rib-tickling drama that keeps you on the edge of your seat throughout. Further, the superlative performances by the cast drives the film.
Irrfan Khan is true to his talent, but it’s the two Singhs, Arunoday and Pradhuman, who steal the show.
While we have already witnessed Pradhuman's talent before in the Tere Bin Laden franchise — Tere Bin Laden (2010) and Tere Bin Laden: Dead Or Alive (2016) — Arunoday Singh has often failed to show promise in the acting department with forgettable performance in films like Mohenjo Daro (2016). However, here he surprises you with what could become a career-defining performance. He plays Reena’s secret lover Ranjit Arora, but as the henpecked husband of Dolly Verma (Divya Dutta) he evokes guffaw moments by the dozen.
Pradhuman, who plays Anand Tripathi, the cheesy, blabbering colleague-cum-friend of Irrfan's Dev, is impressive. The self-proclaimed Casanova digs his own grave when he spills the beans about Dev’s blackmail plan at a dinner date with the new chick in office, Prabha Ghatpande (Anuja Sathe). Though Anand is the last man you would want to reveal your dirty secrets to, he is also a character you would love to have around. Pradhuman aces the buffoonery of his character to the T.
The wealthy Dolly, and her father, literally drag Ranjit around like a dog. Seeing that, you wouldn’t blame him for seeking love outside. Though he has essentially ruined Dev’s life, you feel empathy for the man. He is an enjoyable character. Arunoday displays the dimwittedness and vulnerability of Ranjit to near perfection.
You don’t expect too many emotions from a man torn by his wife’s infidelity. So, Dev mostly cuts a forlorn look. Irrfan Khan portrays the restrained intensity of Dev well, letting his actions do all the talking. Apart from drawing up his sinister plan, Dev carries stolen pictures of his colleagues' wives, including of his comical boss DK (Omi Vaidya), to the office closet.
With Irrfan Khan away in London getting treated for a neuroendocrine tumour, it was Kirti Kulhari who promoted the film. Though pivotal to the plot, Reena largely plays second fiddle to Dev, Ranjit and Anand.
It is the ladies in the supporting cast, Anuja Sathe and Divya Dutta, who leave a bigger impression. Dutta is outstanding, while Sathe, who had a brief role in Salman Khan’s Bajrangi Bhaijaan (2015), shines with her geeky looks and wicked intentions. Perhaps Kulhari would have liked some more layers to her character, but there seems little scope for that.
Vaidya shows shades of Chatur from 3 Idiots (2009). The America-returned boss DK — a Delhi Belly (2011) hangover? — is obsessed about converting the jet-spray-using population of the city to his 'My Hand' toilet paper. His obsession sees him order Dev to turn off the water supply in a locality. Absurd as it sounds, the move yields the desired result for Dev.
One could simply tire of praising the entire cast, but it would be injustice not to mention the cameo of the lady who plays the wife of private detective Chawla (Gajraj Rao). She sells a Colt gun to Ranjit. It is night, but the lady has donned shades and sells arms muttering classic Hindi film dialogues. Kudos to the writers for creating such a character.
The film also scores with its music. Amit Trivedi and rapper Divine have created the ideal revenge song 'Badla', a war cry for those who have had unfaithful spouses. Deo uses the track at critical junctures.
Perhaps, the lone criticism of the film is the sense of inevitability that creeps in after the two-hour mark. The 10-odd minutes there slow down the rollercoaster ride, but Blackmail picks up pace at the business end.
One of the key dialogues in the film is when an inebriated Dev tells Anand, ‘Shaadiyan toh sirf gaon mein hoti hain, sheher main toh sirf band bajta hai’. It would be difficult to give a translation, for the pun can only be enjoyed in Hindi. But these words reflect the plight of middle-class couples in a metro like Mumbai.
In a material world, everyone is looking for a relationship of convenience. Anand married Dolly for her wealth. Reena gives the impression that she loves Anand but is only interested in his good looks and well-built physique.
Irrfan Khan’s blackmail plot is not just a plan for revenge but also an attempt to repay loans and make ends meet. No wonder the novice only demands specific amounts of ransom each time.
Though absurd, it is the hilarity accompanying each subplot that makes Blackmail a rib-tickling entertainer.