GHANCHAKKAR. Director: Rajkumar Gupta. Players: Emraan Hashmi, Vidya Balan, Rajesh Jain, Namit Das. Music: Amit Trivedi. Theatrical release UTV Motion Pictures. Hindi with English sub-titles.

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Expectations were really high on this one, considering the fact that it had three redoubtable names behind it. The director, Rajkumar Gupta, was behind the critically acclaimed and fairly successful Aamir and No One Killed Jessica before this. Emraan Hashmi is on a roll and post Shanghai is finally being acknowledged for being more than just a serial-kisser. Vidya Balan is, of course, the Midas lady, who just can’t go wrong. Plus, the trailers were wacky enough for the audience to expect a fun-filled roller-coaster ride along with a suspense angle thrown in. Suffice it to say that apart from the first few minutes, the film doesn’t stand up to the promise it made.

The film is about a heist and the search for misplaced loot. It begins with the garishly dressed Neetu (Balan) and Sanju (Haashmi) living a humdrum family-life to which they have reconciled to after giving up their old ways. So Sanju watches TV all day long and listens to his mother criticizing his wife on the phone, and Neetu spends her days experimenting with Femina/Vogue inspired fashion and cooking. They fight tiresomely frequently over dinner—how much more humdrum can it get?

However, Sanju gets a call for a last heist which, the caller ensures him, will take care of his needs for all his life. The couple gives in to the cranky baddies, Pandit (Jain) and Idris (Namit) and agree to rob a bank.

Together, they clean out a bank vault and make off with a loot of 35 crores (about 5.5 million dollars). While the criminals decide to lie low until the heat dies down, they give Sanju the responsibility of safe-keeping the loot. Post heist, however, the film goes steadily downhill with what seems to be the scenes on a loop. Sanju loses his memory and the audience their patience.

What was funny the first time, soon descends to irritating. Apart from Balan’s outfits which get weirder and weirder nothing changes, nothing moves forward. And it takes very, very long for the movie to end.

Billed as a tale of thievery and mistrust, the movie seems to be one of slapstick sequences, almost caricaturish. The intrigue falls under the category of absurd and it seems like the director was having the last laugh on the audience.

Hashmi, one imagines, must have been living the role of an amnesiac but that dull, disinterested look is so permanent on his face that you may as well hold him up as a warning against the adverse effects of excessive TV watching. Balan, after a long time, falters in her portrayal of an over-the-top “fashionable Punjaban.” For instance, no Punajban brought up on Femina and having spent her life in Mumbai will speak in that rural-Punjabi accent even at home. The end is thankfully a deliverance.

The music by Amit Trivedi, especially the title track “Lazy Lad” is well marketed and proves to be good, but not outstanding.

The director seems to have given in to the public-demand to cash in on Balan’s The Dirty Picture image but to no avail. Ghanchakkar’s big reveal ended up like a damp squib and the villains came across as annoying rather than menacing. Much, much more was expected of the film given the big names. What went wrong is anybody’s guess but maybe some more meat in the plot would have helped.

An old 70’s film Victoria No. 203 too had a looking-for-something-misplaced theme with veterans Ashok Kumar and Pran as the main leads. Their different adventures made the film rip-roaringly funny. One just wishes Ghanchakkar had half that zaniness. Ghanchakkar has some excellent ingredients put together inexpertly by a novice chef.

All in all, the best scene in the film is when the actors hide behind masks. The deft camera manipulation produced angles that transformed the expressions on the robbers’ face masks to that of respected Bollywood actors, Dharmendra, Utpal Dutt and Amitabh Bachchan.

Better wait till it is aired on TV, when the commercial breaks might lift your sagging spirits.

Madhumita Gupta is a freelance writer and a teacher.

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