Ghanchakkar: Who dunnit?

Did he, did she, did they, did somebody?! All of which was a plaintive plea I had through this convoluted whodunnit.

Here’s the plot in brief (which pretty much sums up the storyline: brief!) Sanjay Athray urf Sanju (Emraan Hasmi) is a safecracking specialist. He teams up with this duo of cheap Charlies, Pandit (Rajesh Sharma) and Idris (Namit Das) to perform a last big robbery before he settles down to lead a reformed life, which is to relieve a bank of its unnecessary burden of 35 crores. The job goes off as planned, and the duo tell Sanju to hide the loot and they’d be back in three months after the cop heat died down, to collect their share.

Right. But then Sanju apparently has an accident (which we never see, only hear about) where he loses his memory (which we hear plenty about!) Groan…Ghajini, Jab Tak Hai Jaan…we’ve had enough of amnesia-inspired movies and besides, will our film makers please do some more scientific research on the subject instead of making the facts fit the fiction!

Then the storywriter cum director Rajkumar Gupta decides to play with our collective minds. Except for the bumbling Charlies, every character has been instructed to look secretive, menacing and slightly psycho by turn, so we don’t know whether Sanju is pulling off a double cross by pretending he’s lost his memory; whether the doctor treating him is in on the game; whether his loud wife Neetu (Vidya Balan) has pulled a fast one on hubby dear; whether the friend who ostensibly won a lottery is the puppet master…you get the picture quicker in this review! Sanju and the audience spent so much time brooding on friend Uttam and his suspicious lottery ticket win and then poof! just like that, this thread vanishes as mysteriously as it was introduced into the script.

So the final twist in this kahani, praise God, is that the suitcase full of money is lying with Sanju’s mommy, who threatens to sell it to the kabbadiwallah if he doesn’t turn up quick to reclaim it. Tsk, tsk… Sanju didn’t tell biwi he was going to visit mommy, huh. Would have cut the story waaay short if he had coz her memory at least is intact!

From perpetually scowling, unshaven, angry young man, Sanju suddenly unbends enough to ask his wife “kar loon kya?”  when this fabulous career offer, yaane ki big robbery, comes his way. Further, he is a skilled thief and yet he doesn’t know the basics of street fighting, instead, sits around quietly waiting to be beaten by his resident thugs. Oh, ah. Forgot the martial moves, no doubt!

I have a problem trying to understand that one can track down a cabbie in a teeming city like Mumbai after a few months, and then said cabbie is expected to remember ramming into a particular car out of the dozens he must have totalled and also, expected to supply the venue of the accident. Complan boy?

Gaaah! Did the dude just bite into a raw eggplant?? Is this to show the audience his shaky mental quotient or to underline the point that raw veggies, ANY veggies, are good for health? Besides wasting footage on the guy with his bhaaji-tarkari on the local train, no point has been achieved with these scenes, except that I meandered off into a plot of my own… guy buying veggies at 1.30 am, taking the train home, when will his wife cook, when will she sleep, when does the guy sleep, how will he wake for office the next morning….you get my drift! Likewise, too much time was wasted on the salt/ less salt/ too much salt in the food, leading me to frown and check on my popcorn.

Hashmi is obviously working out and boy, do the results show! He’s getting a pretty decent bod to go with the glowering intense looks.  As much as he looks beefed up, his leading lady looks, well – buxom. There is no other word for it. Is this to be chalked up to another “script that demanded” Balan pile on the carbs like they’re going out of fashion?? Also, her character has not been fleshed out (pun unintended!) in detail. If it were not for the promotional media interviews given by the actors before the film’s release, I certainly wouldn’t have made the link between Neetu being this Punjabi woman who’s addicted to fashion magazines and hence the absolutely garish get-ups; Cosmo and Vogue should be shrivelling up somewhere for being credited for those atrocious headbands and surfeit of polka dots if nothing else! Balan obviously needs a role she can sink her teeth into (mea culpa!) and which pushes her to deliver of her best and Ghanchakkar, with its weak script and shoddy editing, is anything but. Added to which, she looks older than her hero and the chemistry barometer is off, notwithstanding the hastily bunged in smooch scene, which same is puzzling given that the two showed remarkable fizz in ‘The Dirty Picture.’

Pandit and Das have done what the role demanded of them, which is to play oily with threatening overtones. Nothing inspiring. Mahbanoo Mody Kotwal is totally wasted in that miniscule role; what was she thinking or, wasn’t she?!

It’s hard to believe Gupta directed ‘Aamir’ and ‘No One Killed Jessica,’ besides being AD on ‘Black Friday’ etc. Obviously, real-life inspired stories are his genre; this attempt falls flat miserably. Music by Amit Trivedi – ehh? What? Cinematography by Setu is lackadaisical. Editing by Aarti Bajaj – shudder. Ghanchakkar is definitely not one of UTV’s triumphs.

*This review is written exclusively for The Film Writers Association of India.

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