Irrfan Khan as Dev Kaushal
Kirti Kulhari as Reena Kaushal
Divya Dutta as Dolly Verma
Arunoday Singh as Ranjit Arora
Omi Vaidya as Boss DK
Anuja Sathe as Prabha Ghatpande
Pradhuman Singh as Anand Tripathi
Gajraj Rao as Chawla
Urmila Matondkar as a special appearance in the item number: Bewafa Beauty
We have known Abhinay Deo for ‘Delhi Belly’. From next week, he will be known as the director of Blackmail fame.
The film mocks society, marriages and the shallowness of our ethics, the veneers of garments we put on our realities. If you have this wretched ability to see beyond the farce of social life, this film is an anarchist`s slogan that shakes you up from the core. Christopher Nolan, who is known to create insightful and logical movies, says that movies are never meant to deliver logic. What you find logical is an emotional continuity of scenes. And hey, how true, isn’t it?
The story is simple. It’s the revenge story of a man who doesn’t like violence. Irrfan Khan plays Dev is in a dull marriage with Reena played by Kirti Kulhari. One evening, he returns from office with a bouquet of flowers, lifted from a graveyard because the market is shut, and finds his wife in bed with another man.
Instead of killing either of them, which he considers separately, he decides to blackmail the lover. The lover, Ranjit Arora, played Arunoday Singh, turns out to be an idiot married for money with dim-witted Dolly played by Divya Dutta. He survives on the breadcrumbs thrown by his rich father-in-law who very well knows him and his intentions. The blackmail game goes completely out of hand when Dev tells his office colleague Anand Tripathi, played by Pradhuman Singh, about it over a drink. Anand tells Prabha, the new female employee played by Anuja Sathe, over another drink. The blackmailer ends up getting blackmailed, paying his own blackmail amount unintentionally. The circle of blackmails that involves scheming office colleagues, a sly private detective, a cheating wife, an idiot lover and his manic wife dominoes into a dangerous mess that our protagonist unscrambles beautifully.
It`s a better film that Delhi Belly and its real smartness lie in how it stops short of being complicated. What drove powerfully into my heart is the central message. The way we have been using marriages to conceal our lies, negotiations, the filth let in by fear and cowardice. Basically, marriages have been used as tombs to let the sleeping skeletons hidden. And our modern lives, as a result, have become graveyards, is the simile and constant motif used in the movie.
Irrfan and Arunoday shine. Irrfan gives us a character we like because he will do no harm when none is done to him. He invests Dev with fear and vulnerability. Arunoday is, for the first time after ‘Yeh Saali Zindagi’ gets a meaty role and measures up. Gajraj Rao as Chawla, who you have been seeing in TVF is hilarious. Omi Vaidya as Boss DK is hysterically amusing. Anuja Sathe is good and I would like to see more of her. For the rest of the cast, I did not feel as much.
The real winner here is the writing. Hurray! It is illuminating, hilarious, bright and dark, hopeful and hopeless, alternatively from sequence to sequence. In such craft of manipulating the audience lies the joy creating movies.
In last 30 minutes, the film gets murkily dark and disturbing. The root of all problems in the planet, as the film suggests, is the unquenchable desire for sex and money whose first victim is human principles. Dark Humor layers well on Colourful night lights, a characteristic of Deo`s movies. The backgrounds are pieces of art. I particularly remember the Chappal Signage under which Dev does his reflections. It is like another character. Sometimes the references are direct for such a layered film. The scenes are magic. Many many of them will end up in the Bollywood book of urban classics.
It is a small film that I hope holds up against the mammoth Baaghi 2 in theatre. We need this film to succeed because it is brilliant cinema, the year’s best till now. But, this film could have been an astounding piece of art, only if they exchanged some convenient plotting for a braver storytelling. And, Urmila Matondkar`s item number is forgettable. Plus, maybe, this one needs its negatives overlooked.
I am going with 4 out of 5 for Blackmail. I am not complaining because I will watch this again.