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Mahesh Bhatt’s films falls into one of two molds. They are either fluff: escapist, box-office friendly, but fluff nonetheless (Aashique, Dil Hai Ke Manta Nahin, Raaz); or they explore uncharted, often taboo topics plucked right out of contemporary headlines. In Aisa Kyon Hota Hai (HIV), Zakhm (out-of-wedlock birth, inter-faith romance), Tamanna (transgender sexuality), and Daddy (parental estrangement) Bhatt is unafraid to tell it like it is. Falling squarely in the latter camp, Bhatt-produced Kalyug has his shrewd social microscope focusing on the dark side of an insatiably voyeuristic cyber-obsessed culture’s entirely plausible ability to destroy innocent lives with a mere keyboard click.
A newlywed couple (newcomers Khemu and Suri) find themselves tangled in a Kafkaesque nightmare after learning that a secret video of their honeymoon bliss at a remote cottage is being offered on a pay-per-view porn website. To settle a score with operators of the site, and against all odds, Khemu’s guilt-ridden young husband scours far and wide, and eventually goes to Switzerland.
This first-rate, engrossing tale of sex, lies, and videotape gets a wonderful boost from newcomer Khemu’s intense delivery. The plot also seamlessly taps into the plight of Hindu refugees from Kashmir, the Europe-based porn and sex trade specializing in exploitation of Indian women (and some men), and a controlling mother’s inability to rein in a rebel-with-a-cause gay daughter. Singh’s noteworthy control-freak matriarch will no doubt raise eyebrows.
The high-flying UTV label comes clean with a remarkable 3-disc DVD that features separate discs for the feature, a “making-of” cover disc, and one with interviews with the principals. Small-budgeted, but far from small-minded, Kalyug is a jolt of realism in a sea of make-believe.