Synopsis – Machine depicts the story of racing enthusiasts , who meet each other under mysterious circumstances. As their bond becomes stronger, they eventually fall in love. However, new things begin to unfold, which change their lives forever
My Take – Back in the 90s, the sibling director duo of Abbas-Mustan made a mark for themselves by remaking Hollywood films (mainly) into stylishly shot Bollywood films filled with melodious songs, glamorous leads, foreign locations and enough twists and turns to keep the average viewer quite engaged. Despite their formula being calcified in recent years with some hits (Race, Kis Kisko Pyaar Karu) and misses (Race 2, Players), when you walk into the theatre for an Abbas-Mustan film, you expect it to be a decent watch, if not something extra ordinary. As a fan myself of some of their biggest hits (Khiladi, Baazigar, Humraaz, Ajnabee, Baadshah), I decided to give this one a watch, which incidentally also marks the debut of Abbas‘s son Mustafa in the lead role, even though the low key promotions and lack of face value had reduced most of my expectation level to almost zero. Assume ably, this should have been his best film ever with a crisp plot and quite some melodious songs. But is that the case? Well, I was in for a surprise, as this one is nothing short of a cinematic disaster. It’s not only that their usual easy to identify tactics now appear tacky and overly familiar, with their usually enjoyable mix of deaths, plot twists, speeding cars and fancy locations (here passed off as North India for some reason), it’s hard to comprehend why would they (or anyone in this case) try to make a film so highly inspired by their very own popular hit film Baazigar and diminish every good quality which made the 1993 release starring Shahrukh Khan, Kajol & debutant Shilpa Shetty, such a success! Everything about this film is wrong, right from the assumption that heart is the only machine that feels. Seriously was this so called bundle of clichés type of script the right film to launch your own blood?
The story follows Sarah Thapar (Kiara Advani), daughter of billionaire tycoon Balraj Thapar (Ronit Roy). Other than being a college student & a charity worker, she is also a race car driver who regularly participates in the ‘Ultimate Racer Challenge’, run by Serena Altar (Carla Dennis) and her father Kriss Alter (Dalip Tahil). Despite being the best racer in town, Sarah is beaten by the mysterious Ransh (Mustafa Burmawala), who is new in town and also joins her college were they soon become good friends. Everything seems fine, until Sarah starts receiving mysterious gifts from a secret admirer, although she expects her secret admirer to be Ransh, it turns out to be her friend Aditya (Eshan Shanker), and just as Aditya steps forward to confess his feelings to Sarah, he is hit by a speeding car, which kills him. An extremely disturbed Sarha not only finds solace in Ransh, she also eventually gets married to him after her dad approves. However, as soon their married new things begin to unfold, which change their lives forever. How the film unfolds further forms the crux of the story along with many turns in the narrative containing a series of betrayals and shocking twists in a true Abbas-Mustan style. Yup, the story is laughably ridiculous and the characters seriously have no depth. For the first time, the plot of an Abbas-Mustan film feels too contrived, too illogical and too calculated, even for its own good. The twists seem to be put in for the sake of being added, for effect, even if it is at the expense of the story’s overall connect with the audience. This is not Abbas-Mustan at their best, it’s them at their worst (yes, worse than Players), attempting to rehash on their 90s style which is obviously way past its sell-by date. Here, the director duo Abbas-Mustan seem in their stylish mode as ever with their larger-than-life canvas, right from picturesque locations to chic action, the film has it all, but the screenplay and dialogue bring down the film quite a few notches. For a trendy film like this one, the dialogues are extremely cringe worthy, like “Main Tumhari Lipstick Zaroor Kharab Karunga, Par Tumhara Kajal Nahi” or “First love burns the brightest”, most of them just sound like some Facebook posts a heartbroken lover would come up with and it’s just sad how they are passed off as film dialogues, they do nothing but break the flow of the film. While most parts of the film give you a déjà vu feel of many previous Abbas-Mustan films, the film fails to impress in the writing department. If you think you can predict where this story is going, let me share that there is a double role, a foster father, a murder plot, a catalogue of sub-standard actors, even worse computer graphics and a number of badly timed songs to distract you from the drivel being delivered in the previous scene. Running for a long 148 minutes, its only post interval the director duo Abbas-Mustan divulge into their patented twists: characters shed their secret identities, sliding doors reveal walk-in closets stacked with US dollars and one learns that the multiple accidents were actually murders. With a filmography jam-packed with adaptations, why director duo Abbas-Mustan loses the plot here is perhaps because there was no source material to go back to. If there was, it was surely not worthy of a remake. Even the characters here are questionable; for example, Sarah’s character is straight from the 90s when girls didn’t find the whole secret admirer thing creepy. How is she in love with a person who sends her a letter written with his blood in this time and age is beyond my understanding. Also, once again how wrongly, stalking is shown to be a form of wooing is shown shamelessly.
Do you remember the hysterical multi starrer snake reincarnation 2002 film Jaani Dushman: Ek Anokhi Kahani – the one starring Sunny Deol, Akshay Kumar and Sonu Nigam? There is a plot point where two of Manisha Koirala’s friends attempt to rape her, well they fail. Later, the two men apologize to her, and their common friends plead her to forgive them and for some reason she does, yes this film has a similar scene. Why? Because logic is not expected, don’t even ask how Sarah and Ransh get married without even passing college. Also, the character of Kriss Altar, a tycoon who funds races and the plot regarding him and his death, and his seductive but silly daughter Serena are totally extraneous to the main plot in terms of logic. In spite of the story being laden with twists, there’s hardly anything gripping about it. The romantic track is super stretched and fails to create ripples. You are forced to witness world’s worst format of Romeo and Juliet followed by forced twist and turns. Everything happens in a convenient manner without any hardship. The comedy track featuring Abbas-Mustan’s lucky mascot Johnny Lever is bland and fails to work here. The finale is the worst part in the film where the secret being the film’s title is revealed. The climax, where a man hurt practically in the heart, travels to a location far away, says what he wants to say without a flinch and then actually jumps off a hill into the valley is ridiculous. The way the commando twin brother (the awful Eshan Shankar in a dual role) of the heroine’s best friend gets footage of a staged accident is ludicrous to the extreme. Another new lesson: an army commando is as young as a college student despite years of training in the Army! Nevertheless, they pull off the action sequences with finesse. From the car races to the action sequences, every scene is bang-on. Cinematography by Dilshad VA is top notch, and each frame is beautifully placed and visually the film is impressive. The music composers Tanishk Bagchi, Dr Zeus and Komail-Shivaan do a good job, especially on the recreation of the 90s chartbuster ‘Tu Cheez Badi’. Coming to the performances, M.S Dhoni: The Untold Story actress Kiara Advani looks pretty throughout the film and considering what she was handed and forced to deliver, she is the only saving grace of this disaster. After some awkward beginning sequences, she dives right into her part and gives a fairly competent performance. Star kid Mustafa makes a confident debut. Here and there he misses the mark, or is reprised too often and when not needed, but it’s a bravura first performance. Despite his unconventional looks, he shows promise and does a fairly good job but needs to brush up on his expressions. The other two new faces of the film, Eshan Shankar in a dual role, hams like there is no tomorrow, while Carla Denis manages to look smoking hot, that’s all. Ronit Roy here plays a similar role with the usual finesse. Dalip Tahil, Sharat Saxena and Johnny Lever are wasted here. On the whole, ‘Machine’ is nothing but a cringe fest attempt to cash in on a previous success & just run down by a bland and yawn inducing screenplay.
Rated – PG
Run Time – 148 minutes