“Kaabil”… A thoroughly underwhelming thriller

Posted on January 25, 2017

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Spoilers ahead…

So how bad can it really be? If that’s your frame of mind when you settle into a screening of Sanjay Gupta’s Hrithik Roshan-starring Kaabil, who can blame you? The director is coming off Jazbaa, the hero off Mohenjo Daro. The bar for their new outing together is barely an inch off the ground – and for a while, the film gives off a not-bad vibe. “Not bad” is hardly the most ringing of endorsements until you remember what “bad” is. At least Aishwarya Rai Bachchan isn’t screeching. At least there’s no crocodile flying. Rohan (Hrithik Roshan) meets Supriya (Yami Gautam) on a blind date. I mean, literally. They’re both blind. She says she doesn’t want to get married. She likes her independence. He begins to panic that there’d be no movie otherwise. He turns on the charm. Her “no” becomes a “maybe.”

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Rohan and Supriya are remarkable Hindi-film characters. There’s no self-pity, no anger, none of the complexes that coloured Naseeruddin Shah in Sparsh. On their next date, they dance – not tentatively, but with exuberant steps, as though auditioning for that carnival number in Luck By Chance. Part of this is surely producer Rakesh Roshan realising that if fans are paying good money to see his son dance, then dance his son shall. But the energy here is something I’ve never seen in a film with two disabled characters. And then comes the rude awakening. They go to a crowded mall, get separated – but soon, he overcomes his panic and finds a way to find her.

Rohan is very kaabil that way, almost too much so. There’s not a situation he cannot handle, no villain he cannot vanquish. His unflappability is the film’s undoing. When tragedy befalls the happy couple, Rohan sets out on a revenge mission. (The hilariously one-note bad guys are played by Ronit Roy, Rohit Roy and Girish Kulkarni.) Every step, you are reminded of better films – Aakhree Raasta, where Amitabh Bachchan went about devising elaborate schemes for murder; or Ek Hasina Thi, where Urmila Matondkar was forced by circumstances to transform into a toughie. Kaabil is entirely predictable, and it squanders its sole element of intrigue. The story of a blind man whose blindness is just a minor inconvenience is the story of Superman who merely experiences an itch when faced with Kryptonite.

Sanjay Gupta appears lost. There are far too many emotional beats in this story, and that’s not his strong point. And Gupta’s forte – getting off on sadistic, slickly shot violence – isn’t something you expect Papa Roshan to endorse. Rohan’s ploys are fun for a bit, but they get repetitive very quickly, and you wish for some real danger, some tightness, some tension. Yami Gautam barely registers, but then, it’s her co-star people will come to see. And he pulls out the stops. He gives his fans the Guzaarish martyr face, the Agneepath angry face, the Mission: Kashmir troubled face, the Jodhaa Akbar post-coital face, the Yaadein what-am-I-doing-in-this-movie? face, and of course, the Koi Mil Gaya face – the glazed eyes and slightly stupid grin of a teenager who’s just experienced his first orgasm. What we have, in other words, is less a thriller than a series of bedroom-wall posters for fans.

KEY:

  • kaabil = capable, worthy
  • Jazbaa = see here
  • Mohenjo Daro = see here
  • Luck By Chance = see here
  • Ek Hasina Thi = see here
  • Guzaarish = see here
  • Agneepath = see here
  • Jodhaa Akbar = see here

Copyright ©2017 Baradwaj Rangan. This article may not be reproduced in its entirety without permission. A link to this URL, instead, would be appreciated.

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Posted in: Cinema: Hindi