DHOKHA. Director: Pooja Bhatt. Players: Muzzamil Ibrahim, Tulip Joshi, Aushima Sawhney, Anupam Kher. Music: M. M. Kreem. DVD (Adlabs).

The house of Bhatts—Mahesh, Pooja, and Mukesh—has a reputation for making cutting edge dramas (Tamanna, Daddy, Zakhm). Unconventional subject choices combined with outspoken political views have branded the Bhatts as Hindi cinema’s most vocal cognoscenti. With Dhokha, director Pooja Bhatt has crafted a well-made love story in a world filled with hate.

Credibly acted by fresh faces in the lead, Dhokha follows Inspector Zaid (Ibrahim) under suspicion of connection to a Jihadi cell responsible for a Mumbai suicide bomb attack. At the same time that the bomb is set off, Zaid’s wife Sarah (Joshi, nicely underplayed) mysteriously goes missing. Fighting religious bigotry amongst his uniformed peers and suddenly alone—except for an old flame, Nandini (Sawhney), who surfaces to offer solace—Zaid is determined to uncover the real culprits.

Pooja Bhatt’s steady hand is most evident with close ups, yet the film does not fully capture each arc of emotion that many scenes require. Kreem’s score seldom rises to the intensity of his earlier gems like Jism and Criminal, and actor Kher is underused. That said, fresh as the story is—and this one certainly packs plot novelties—what Dhokha may be most remembered for is that Indian censors allowed the dramatization of some of the most disturbing, widely distributed (if not actually shown), and horrifying visual images to emerge from the so-called war on terror.

Globe trekker, aesthete, photographer, ski bum, film buff, and commentator Aniruddh Chawda writes from Milwaukee.

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