In Nagesh Kukunoor’s tedious supernatural thriller, there’s isn’t a ghost of a chance of genuine thrills.
APR 5, 2009 – IF AKSHAY KUMAR WISHES TO DEFEND HIMSELF against the obscenity charges likely to be levelled at him, for unbuttoning his jeans at a recent fashion show, his counsel could do worse than to organise a screening of 8 x 10 Tasveer. In most films, Akshay is called upon to portray action heroes with adrenaline-pumping physical agility, whereas here, he plays Jai, who possesses the ability to stare at photographs and reconfigure past events involving the people inside them. Large swatches of screen time, therefore, require him to do little more than remain frozen and render a glassy stare, as the camera glides in for a time-lapse close-up of his cornea. Which court in the land, then, could blame the restive actor for wanting to reclaim a bit of edgy excitement?
Other filmmakers with fewer aspirations to art might have made something cheesily endurable out of this paranormal mystery, revolving around the death of Jai’s father (Benjamin Gilani). You can imagine Abbas-Mustan high-fiving with unconcealed glee at the prospect of extracting every last drop of juice from so pulpy a premise, with its desperate attempts at last-minute rug-pulling and laughably telegraphed character delineations. (The hero is nobly employed at the Environment Protection Services, while the villain is a… smoker, who cares little that, with every puff, he fills the environs with lethal carcinogens.) But Nagesh Kukunoor, unfortunately, appears to harbour the impression that he’s redefining the thriller. He goes for tony understatement – there isn’t a genuine chill in sight – and we’re stranded with a dour whodunit that wends its way to a painfully protracted conclusion.
How could such an interesting premise from such an interesting filmmaker be squandered so? This question must have surely haunted the members of the cast (Ayesha Takia, Sharmila Tagore, Girish Karnad), who uniformly respond by going through the motions in a robotic haze. As for Jaaved Jaaferi, he seems to be literally playing a robot, with stiff-jointed moves inherited from Star Trek’s Data and with a comic routine that’s even stiffer. His character is named Habibullah Pasha, and there’s an attempt at a feeble running joke where he insists he’s called “Happi… with an i.” The rimshot punch line arrives when he announces, at one point, “Aaj mera Happy Birthday hai. Happy… with a y.” The hapless viewer, meanwhile, shifts uncomfortably in his seat, unhappy… with a capital y.
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