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Sameer review: Needless deviations, loose editing dilute this engrossing thriller

Release Date: 08 Sep 2017 / Rated: U/A / 02hr 09min

Cinestaan Rating

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Shriram Iyengar

By overcomplicating an engrossing story, director Dakxin Chhara dilutes the effect of a well-worded political thriller. 

As the nation reels from the cold-blooded murder of a noted journalist, director Dakxin Chhara's film seems like a prescient tale of how people in power broker conflicts to ensure the stability of their regime. Starring Mohammed Zeeshan Ayyub, Anjali Patil, Seema Biswas and Subrat Dutta, the film is a fairly engrossing political thriller revolving around a mysterious terrorist organizing bomb blasts across the country. 

Any healthy society needs resistance: Sameer director Dakxin Chhara

The film begins with Ahmedabad ATS officer Vikram Desai (Dutta) breaking into a Hyderabad hostel to find Yasin Darzi. Darzi is the mastermind behind the recent bomb blasts in the city, and hails from Ahmedabad. While Darzi absconds, the ATS captures Sameer Memom (Ayyub), his roommate at the hostel. Unable to pin anything on Sameer, and desperate to capture Darzi, Desai decides to send the young engineer to Darzi's little slum in Ahmedabad as a mole. 

While Sameer strives to infiltrate into Darzi's family comprising his mother Khala (Biswas) and brother Shahid (Chinmay Mandlekar), he also encounters a whole world of people struggling to survive under the remains of a developing city. Characters like Manto (Alok Gagdekar) and Rocket (Shubham Bajrange) play a crucial role in completing the circle of Darzi's world. 

At the same time, journalist Alia Irade (Anjali Patil) is trying to get to the root of 55 missing children from Hyderabad, when she receives an e-mail from Darzi about the blasts that follow in Bangalore. This puts her in direct conflict with the ATS and old friend Vikram Desai. 

As Desai and Darzi play cat and mouse, Sameer struggles to keep himself alive as the bait. At the same time, Alia finds herself engrossed in the strange connection between the missing children and the bomb blasts unfolding. The film picks up a frenzied chase to the end as officer Desai and Sameer try to predict Darzi's moves, only for the tale to take a strange twist towards the end. 

Chhara paces the film well, sprinkling enough red herrings to make it engrossing. While the first half takes some time to get going, the second half is more gripping, though predictable.

Sincerely played by Ayyub, Sameer has a touch of endearing realism that makes him very relatable. He plays the role with a natural ease that is not always in keeping with the character. Manto (Gagdekar), the playwright, plays the sharp political observer who acts as the conscience, reminding us of the political evils through his commentary and plays.

Played by members of Chhara's own Budhan Theatre group, the plays are sometimes incisive and entertaining but do not add much to the film's narrative itself. It is no surprise that the playwright is named Manto, after the incorrigibly honest Urdu writer. He is even fashioned after the writer, with his curly hair and square black spectacles.

The portrayals of the tough ATS cop Desai and the wily journalist Alia are also good. The more endearing portrayal is that of Rocket, the innocent lamb at the centre of this deception. The surprise is Shahid, played by Mandlekar, who steals the scene with his presence. The sharp, conversational dialogues only add to the pace of the film, particularly in the second half. 

While it is well paced, the film misses a step with its plot development. There are several aspects of the story that could have been purged by better editing, tightening the script. Scenes of comedy between Khala and the undercover police officer, or the forced attempt to show the past relationship between Alia and Vikram Desai, do not work in the larger scheme of things. They feel incomplete. There is also no light shed on the origin of Alia's entry into the missing children case.

The deviations into the constant bickering between two religions in the slums seem a little too random. Having lived in a chawl, it is easy to see how an accidental stone might lead to a small war, but it rarely ever erupts into people battling with knives and swords. These deviations seem unnecessary and take away from the pace of the story, without adding much to the plot.

The other factor that jinxes the script is its emphasis on the political machinations. Chhara's political voice sometimes seems too forced and takes away from the engrossing plot unfolding in front of us. The climax, though predictable, has enough of the shock element to keep your attention. However, the director then goes on to try and explain the climax, adding another four or five completely redundant scenes. The trick of a good thriller is to not reveal everything. It is this revelation that dilutes the political machinations of the masters. 

Overall, Chhara delivers a decent film that underlines the machiavellian rule that the political masters will use anything, even murder, to stay in power. The only problem is that he takes a little too long to get to the point.