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In director Behzad Khambata’s A Thursday, Yami Gautam plays the role of Naina, a teacher. Naina runs a playschool attached to her home in Mumbai.
Ordinary Day Takes A Wild Turn
On her return from a three-week break, Naina decides to arrange a party for one of her students. As soon her fiancé leaves for work, though, she locks up the kids and calls the cops: she has turned her school into a hostage site.
Naina then asks for a certain Javed Khan to be the negotiator on the other side. She threatens to kill a child every hour unless she sees a 50-million-rupee deposit in her bank account. This is just during the first hour. She has more demands. As the cops struggle to diffuse the situation, Naina locks up two adults in the house, one of which is her trusted maid.
Almost Worthy Sequel
This Bollywood crime thriller is the sequel to the 2008 movie A Wednesday. I wondered if the filmmakers missed a trick by calling it so. In that movie, veteran actors Naseeruddin Shah and Anupam Kher faced off in a tense setting with Shah playing the role of a common man, operating with burner phones from a rooftop and threatening to blow up the city of Mumbai.
With a tight screenplay, that movie had a certain element of shock associated with it. We’d seen Shah in villainous roles earlier, and so, continued to play along with the thought that he may indeed have had evil intentions, until a series of plot twists told us otherwise.
With Yami/Naina being the Shah-equivalent of a common woman here, we start hypothesizing very quickly that she may not want to harm the kids after all. For a film positioning itself as a thriller, this is an important piece of implicit revelation that works against it.
Poor Casting, Insipid Acting
The crime thriller also suffers from some insipid acting and poor casting. Karanvir Sharma playing the role of Naina’s fiancé, Rohit Mirchandani, performs like he is in dire need of a crash course in acting. Even seasoned actors like Atul Kulkarni (the negotiator Javed Khan) and Neha Dhupia (ACP Catherine Alvarez, who shares a bitter history with him) disappoint with over-the-top performances. There are other actors—those playing the role of the parents of the kids, the TV journalist, and others—who appear to be horribly miscast.
Yami Gautam adds to the fun with some forgettable histrionics. Her sudden gazes, accompanied by background sounds, appear to be straight out of a B-grade horror flick. The shots of her leaning forward, stylishly tapping her AirPods, and wielding her gun like Lara Croft seem woefully out of place with the persona of an everyday person.
Worth A Watch
Having said that, A Thursday isn’t entirely unwatchable. The real intentions behind Naina’s actions are revealed in the second half, punctuated by some chilling scenes involving a teenager. For all the missteps in the first half, Yami Gautam redeems herself with some nuanced lines during her one-on-one meeting with a certain VIP. The screenplay even settles some questions in our mind from earlier in the movie. Like Naina’s timing of choosing that particular Thursday for her actions, and the reason for involving Javed Khan—of all the cops in Mumbai. There is also a sensational twist involving the identity of a monster responsible for the trauma of an entire family 15 years earlier.
While A Thursday may have been a little wayward in its execution in comparison with its predecessor, it makes some interesting deviations from A Wednesday.
In that movie, the supposedly evil machinations of the mysterious caller and its repercussions are known only to a select few in the police force.
Here, in keeping with the times, the entire city bears witness to every move of Naina in a reality-show-like vein. There is also a moral plug on mental health, and the ignorance among folks today on the difference between depression and craziness.
We even get a more satisfying finish to the movie; while in A Wednesday, the common man breaks the law and restores justice on his own, the common woman here forces the highest law-making body in the country to rethink on how to make her land a better place to live in.
2 hrs 8 mins | Drama, Thriller
Cast: Yami Gautam, Atul Kulkarni, Neha Dhupia
Director: Behzad Khambata
Official trailer: A Thursday | Official Trailer | Yami Gautam Dhar, Atul Kulkarni, Neha Dhupia | DisneyPlus Hotstar