THE GRIN REAPER
A murder mystery goes for laughs and ends up neither frightening nor funny, merely rotten.
JAN 27, 2008 – IT USED TO BE JUST DEATH AND TAXES, but I think it’s safe now to append to the list of sure things the latest brain-dead comedy from Bollywood. The trickle, these days, appears to have become a flood – we seem to be getting one every couple of weeks! – and going by the success rate of these films, I wouldn’t be surprised if, in the near future, multiplexes everywhere take to installing braincheck rooms outside the cinema halls. As we hold out our tickets to the usher, I can see us being asked to deposit our cranial matter for safekeeping through the duration of the movie, so that not a sliver of analytical process will be allowed to impede our enjoyment of the film in question. And it’s tempting to imagine the pandemonium after the screening, outstretched hands of screaming patrons intimidating the pretty girl (oh, as long as we’re dreaming, why the hell not!), pointing her this way and that: No, not that grayish lump. That one, there, next to the one with the smallish occipital lobe. Ah, yes. Be careful. Phew. Thank you very much. Have a nice day.
Until such a time, unfortunately, we have no way of fully appreciating something like Rohit Shetty’s Sunday, which only plays like a comedy, because that’s the flavour of the season, but is actually a thriller, so at any given moment you’re never sure what mood to hold on to. This is the kind of film that wants to cash in on Arshad Warsi’s comic timing by having him con a couple of foreign tourists about the see-worthiness of the nearby police station – according to him, it houses the first FIR ever filed, by Anarkali’s mother against Akbar, a bit of detail I’m fairly certain Ashutosh Gowarikar is unaware of – but almost immediately after, we see Warsi in angst about having to amass four lakhs for his kidney surgery. Sunday takes a cue from this character and keeps changing its mind about what it wants to be. One moment it tries to resemble a dark, timely thriller structured around a mysterious woman who’s shot dead in the very first scene. Then it wants us to laugh at Warsi copping a bullet in the posterior. Then it attempts to get us all white-knuckled about the heroine (the always-watchable Ayesha Takia; the one interesting thing in this film is how her inability to recollect what she did on a Sunday links back to the murder) being chased by an unknown assailant in a dimly-lit garage.
On and on it goes till your only concern is not who did it or why, but just when the lights will come back up. (Even by the feeble standards of recent comedy-thrillers like 36 China Town, the closing revelations in Sunday hit a new low.) Ajay Devgan, as the cop on the case, tries to maintain a semblance of dignity while asked to go through the motions of a stunt sequence lifted from the chase-through-the-rooftops in The Bourne Ultimatum, except that this version ends with the hero walking in defiant slo-mo towards a cloud of red chillies flying in his direction. Irrfan Khan attempts to earn a (well-deserved) commercial-film pay cheque by sprinting across a street in the guise of Ravana, while being chased by a spaniel. And cinematographer Aseem Bajaj tries to give everything a touch of class with his lovely staging of scenes in and around monuments in the capital, but even his eye for composition cannot do a thing for the moment where a drunk at a bar eyes a couple of women standing in front of him and wishes he were an airplane, so that he could crash into these twin towers. The problem isn’t one of taste – after all, one of the greatest episodes of Seinfeld was anchored to JFK-assassination humour – but what a pity a joke this inspired had to be squandered in a film this brainless.
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