Synopsis – A blind man sets out to avenge the murder of his wife.
My Take – It’s a rare case when two superstars clashing their films on the same date end up paying homage to the same kind of cinema which was way more appreciated about 30 years back. While, Raees has SRK‘s unapologetic swag to back things up, this Sanjay Gupta film has Hrithik’s comeback act to shadow the predictable plot. Plus, given director Sanjay Gupta’s past filmography (which includes recent films like Jazbaa and Shootout at Wadala), it’s only natural that you walk into his latest film with low expectations. Perhaps because of this, or because Hrithik Roshan brought his A game after what seems like ages, this is a surprisingly watchable film that keeps its eye on the ball. This is one of those Bollywood films which does not offer anything new or anything you wouldn’t expect out of a usual ‘masala’ film, yet you can’t call it disappointing. In fact, if you ignore some flaws in the film, & accept that this might not be the best thriller out there, this one can turn out to be quite an interesting watch. The film gives you exactly what you’d expect out of a Rakesh Roshan-Sanjay Gupta partnership. Both have a strong affinity towards dramatic thrillers, although in different contexts, and both love blood spills, action sequences and the idea of revenge a little too much. They mix up their likings and helm a romantic-thriller. What they miss, however, is the realism required to base a concrete thriller. The story follows Rohan Bhatnagar (Hrithik Roshan), a blind young man who works as a dubbing artist to earn his livelihood. After being forced into a ‘blind’ date, he meets Supriya (Yami Gautam), a pianist and NGO worker, who is also blind like him. The two soon fall in love and decide to get married. They get married and are leading a very happy life, dreaming of a great future ahead. They begin their married life with much pomp and circumstance, along with their friends, with the hope of starting a better life together. However, horror knocks on their door the right next day when a local goon Amit (Rohit Roy) and his friend, Wasim (Sahidur Rahaman), sexually assault Supriya, shattering their lives forever. They file a police complaint but since Amit is the brother of an influential municipal official Madhav Shelar (Ronit Roy), the two are allowed to go scot free. Devastated by the incident Supriya commits suicide. Rohan, shattered by tragedy after quick tragedy, transforms into a vengeance seeking one-man army who uses his un-seeing world to derail the criminals. Rohan even openly challenges the investigating police officers, Chaubey (Narendra Jha) and his deputy (Girish Kulkarni) that his revenge will be even more perfect than the perfect crime, and at every stage seems to be one step ahead of them.
While they rely on what they see, he uses his (heightened) senses – smell, special understanding and sound. Thus begins a cat & mouse came as Rohan strikes from every corner possible. The first half offers a romantic scoop and the second, a full-on dramatic revenge plot. For starters, there is definitely a lot of heart in the film, with Rohan overacting to the core to impress Supriya. Soon, the focus shifts from their delicate romance to the idea of people mocking those who are disabled. Amit and his friend are both repugnant in their actions and words, and do not mind speaking their mind, especially when Supriya, or women in general, is the subject. The makers probably wanted to show the aftermath of rape, by sampling (or rather simplifying) disability, but handle it rather clumsily. There is no other excuse to create this film which has shades of cliché, mockery, and anti-feminism. Viewers are guaranteed to feel angry at what ensues after the assault, taking the torch from the scene of act to the police station to the local minister’s mansion. It is the usual flow of narration where police apathy and corruption barge in and make you boil. Nonetheless, it does not pass muster if the Roshans had wanted to show the stark reality about the condition of women in a country where the idea of feminism is muddled, and patriarchy and dash of fascism is at an all-time high. It addresses one too many social issues, and then moves on to the vengeance part – which is plain old sweetness and kudos to director Sanjay Gupta for his treatment in the second half. What is surprisingly nice about the film is that, just in a few minutes into the film, we know what exactly we are going to witness for the next 2 hours. In spite of the script being predictable, the director has scored well with the suspense elements and the interesting action scenes that require a smart choreography. The screenplay in the second half is very commendable and the only negative is the item song that was not required. Adding to that, the use of poor computer graphics in few sequences is a downer. The film reminded me a lot of the Amitabh Bachchan-Akshay Kumar starrer Aankhen. It had to, right? And I have this strong feeling that some plot points, if not all have been inspired from elsewhere. The tone of the film from the beginning kind of gives away how things are going to go with our hero. Also, the film spends a good half of the film on the couple but doesn’t leave an emotional tug. These two things put together makes the film a little underwhelming. Nevertheless, the curiosity about how it is done takes you through the film. While the dynamics of how the thrill is brought about are written well, the main character’s transition bothered me. On the other hand, it has always bothered me when films have a common man, who is disappointed by the system, take matters into his own hands. So, that would make me reject half the films in this genre, right? If not for anything else, this will go down in film history to feature the most number of puns on blindness. “Andhera kabhi andhere ko roshan nahi kar sakta hai”(Darkness can never light up darkness). “Pyaar mein andha hota hai, yeh too suna tha, lekin andhe ko pyaar hota hai, yeh pehli baar deke rahi hoon” (I had heard of being blinded by love, but blind people in love is something I’m seeing for the first time). Or “An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind”. It would’ve been fine if a few such lines were used as a way of showing the light-heartedness of Rohan, the film’s protagonist, who is blind. But they keep coming from everywhere: both the villain and the cop say them. At one point, when Rohan says, “Sach boloon toh (to tell you the truth), it was love at first sight”, and the next moment, he is in a construction site with his girlfriend, I began to wonder if director Sanjay Gupta is playing a prank. But then the film is too good-natured — a little too much — a film to accommodate a self-deprecating joke. It also means that it is unsurprising enough for the audience to make such desperate attempts to be entertained. For a film about a blind man avenging his wife’s death, that’s fatal.
One of the reasons we don’t root for Rohan as much as we should have is because we don’t feel the struggle of a blind person. Right from the first frame— where he is frying eggs for breakfast and simultaneously attending calls — he is already extraordinary, another superhuman variation of the character he plays so often. There are some botched up opportunities, like the scene where Rohan and Supriya get separated in a crowd in a shopping mall. It could have been a demonstration of how, even though for a few minutes, a perfectly protected public place could turn hellish for a blind couple. The scene should have made us feel their vulnerabilities as well as the strength of their bonding. The filmmakers make it even easier for Rohan by severely limiting his world. The film has no more than a handful of characters, half of whom are dead by the end credits. The film seems to have largely been shot at a single location, and even the police station appears to be in another wing of the building in which Rohan lives. Even though he lives in what is supposed to be a safe and friendly neighborhood, Rohan has no community to interfere with his vengeance. The Mumbai Police, second only to Scotland Yard as per urban legend, are conveniently too dim-witted to keep pace with Rohan. Ideally, a whodunit is considered to be the most interesting form of thrillers. But, Rakesh Roshan since the 90s has been challenging the tricks of its classic ways, and adapting it to Bollywood. Though this Sanjay Gupta film is merely produced by him, it isn’t difficult to grasp why Roshan and his clan decided to back the project. The essence of the film is no different from his pulpy vendetta sagas from the yore – Khoon Bhari Maang and Karan Arjun. What it offers is comfort cinema, the one where the hero triumphs and it’s still fun to see it through the end. What it doesn’t bring to the table is the slickness of modern dramas and an original thought! However, it’s the lean writing and meticulous plotting that are convincing because the bar for expectation is kept low. The absence of glitches and obstacles and the plot’s childish simplicity allow Rohan to unfold his walking stick and tap-tap his way out of the crime scene each time. The pocket vendetta thriller is delivered with surprising efficiency by Sanjay Gupta. The director is known for his over-the-top Hollywood & Korean copies. At least here, possibly under his controlling producer’s influence, Gupta dispenses with the flourishes and proves that he has the ability to land the arrow close to the target. Hrithik Roshan needed a much-needed push to his acting career, considering his personal problems and an embarrassing attempt at recreating history (remember last year’s Mohenjo Daro?) had put a few red marks on his report card. The result, being a home production, this film is designed as a Hrithik Roshan vehicle all the way & every scene is designed to provide proof of the star’s versatility. Although Roshan at times looks like he’s straight out of the Koi… Mil Gaya (2003) sets, he performs well, and is one of the many reasons why the film never bores. This is the most confident performance we’ve seen from him since Zoya Akhtar’s Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara, and his performance lends credence to what would otherwise be just another one of the overdone revenge sagas. Yami Gautam, who plays the part with subtlety, matching his performance in her restricted role, is effortless. The Roy brothers are great, with the elder one typecast and the younger one doing a film after a long time. Their characters are perfectly vindictive, and give too many causes for Rohan to fight back. Other supporting actors like Narendra Jha (also seen in Rahul Dholakia‘s Raees), Suresh Menon, and Girish Kulkarni (last seen in Nitesh Tiwari‘s Dangal) are all above average and portray their characters with much diligence. On the whole, ‘Kaabil’ is a watchable run of the mill thriller, which despite its major flaws, doesn’t discredit the genre, and the credit for that should rest on the shoulders of its leading man.
Directed – Sanjay Gupta
Rated – PG
Run Time – 140 minutes