Cast: Irrfan Khan, Kirti Kulhari, Arunoday Singh, Divya Dutta, Pradhuman Singh, Anuja Sathe Gokhale, Omi Vaidya, Gajraj Rao
Director: Abhinay Deo
Rating: * * *
When a marriage is at breaking point it’s a distressing sight. Our man, Dev Kaushal (Irrfan Khan) prefers to work late and always makes it a point to intimate his wife when he leaves the office. He is also a guy who steals pictures of women from his colleagues’ desk and masturbates to them with unfailing regularity. It’s a pitiful sight and you are all set to commiserate with his desperation. You also know by then that he’s probably going to get cuckolded along the way. When the security guard prods him to go home, he messages his wife and gets on his way. Another day, another time, somewhat early home from work and Dev is in for a shocker.
The film, in fact, picks up a little pace from that emotionally barren opening when Dev reaches home and finds his wife (Kirti Kulhari) in bed with Ranjit (Arunoday Singh) who as a matter of fact is married to a politician/Corporator’s daughter Adita (Divya Dutta), also a lush. He doesn’t let on that he knows about their clandestine affair.
Dev plays nurtures his righteous anger and instead of doing something drastic in the heat of the moment, he devises a plan of blackmail. The chain of blackmailing scenarios thereafter is pretty much hilarious (but for a few). The money he demands from Ranjit equals the EMIs and household expenses he has to cough up. The myriad twists in the plot may not always seem logical or feasible but they are intriguing and suspenseful enough to keep you interested. Repetitive sequences mar the enjoyment even when they establish the boredom level of the protagonist. The sluggish pace of the first half gives way to some quicksilver adrenaline rushes thereafter – with some edgy elements thrown-in.
Everyone here is in for the big chance. Dev’s colleagues (Pradhuman Singh, Anuja Sathe Gokhale, Omi Vaidya) become his inadvertent partners in crime– all going around in circles even as they dip in for a piece of the booty. And it’s a common behavioural pattern here- for all the characters to expose some peculiar darkness within themselves. A sequence in the washroom where two colleagues are shown talking about a date rape scene is pretty much revealing of the male gaze at the helm here. Forgotten is the humour he resorted to in his premier directorial effort ‘Delhi Belly.’ Abhinay Deo shows us that he has grown quite a bit since then, as a filmmaker. There’s supreme assurance in his takes and the reveals are surreptitious rather than obvious. The poorly lit camerawork complements the scenario here. The protagonist is miserable and it shows. Deo has also chosen a gifted bunch of actors to do his bidding. Even the songs mesh in well enough, not to be discounted as irritants. The plotting though is pretty much convoluted- with some jarring moments that highlight convenient contrivances like the police walking away and giving the culprits another chance at their tricks.
Irrfan is effortlessly at ease in a role that has him playing patsy while enshrining the diabolical within. Kirti Kulhari makes a definite impact without being too obvious about it. Arunoday Singh may have the weakest role here, but he delivers what his director expected of him with aplomb. Divya Dutta, the most underrated actress in Hindi cinema today is definitely the best thing to happen to Blackmail, after Irrfan. She is so natural here that it’s difficult to see her as anything but… a drunk, dominating shrew. This black comedy may have started off in grubby everyday monotony but when it picks up midway through its runtime, it packs enough of a punch to make you forget the ennui.