8X10 TASVEER. Players: Akshay Kumar, Ayesha Takia, Anant Mahadevan, Javed Jaffrey, Girish Karnad, Benjamin Gilani, and Sharmila Tagore. Music: Salim-Suleiman. Theatrical release: April 2009.d2e0dbc3c50ff6cf2bf1953c72a76972-3

Director Nagesh Kukunoor tends to take off-beat subjects and weave beautifully-told stories out of them—whether they are funny (Hyderabad Blues, Bollywood Calling), poignant(Dor, Iqbal), or just plain interesting (Teen Deewarein). With 8×10 Tasveer, however, Kukunoor fails to arouse the emotion necessary for this “whodunit” film with a supernatural flair.

Jai Puri (Kumar) has a supernatural gift: just by looking at a photograph, he can go back to the past, to the moment after the photo was taken, and see what really happened. As a Park Ranger, he has used this ability to rescue missing hikers, though this practice takes a toll on Jai’s own health. When Jai’s father (Gilani) drowns in a yachting accident, Jai is devastated. He turns to his relatively new girlfriend, Sheela (Takia), for solace. Monk–inspired, o.c.d. detective Happi “with-an-I” (Jaffrey) plants a seed of doubt in Jai’s mind—maybe his father was murdered, and one of the four close friends and family on the boat could be responsible for his death.

Thus begins Jai’s journey into the 8×10 photograph that was taken minutes before his father’s death. He revisits the scene from different points of view and sees something different every time.

Unlike a good suspense thriller, 8×10 Tasveer leaves the viewer feeling cheated. Scenes deliberately leave out vital information, so that you infer incorrectly and never really stand a chance of guessing who the real culprit is. I didn’t, and you won’t either—as Kukunoor throws in a twist out of left field at the end of the film.

Or, so we think it’s the end. Instead, there is a long explanatory section, prefaced by the unimaginative query, “Shall I tell you how I did it?” The writing is completely amateur, and I couldn’t help but wonder (and hope) if Kukunoor outsourced the script to a novice?

There are few songs in the film, and the Bohemia number “I Got The Picture,” used in promos is probably the catchiest number.

To the film’s credit, the cinematography is spectacular, and Canada has never looked more beautiful. Unfortunately, the technical proficiency of the film cannot make up for its half-baked script. Reminiscent of different films (Flatliners, Scream), 8×10 Tasveer isn’t a meaty mystery. Though the concept is intriguing, it boils down to a potentially good subject gone astray.

Antara Bhardwaj is an independent filmmaker based in San Francisco.

 

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