Blank (2019) Review!!!

Synopsis – A suicide bomber loses his memory and has a bomb attached to his heart. It is up to the police officers to prevent this bomb from taking innocent lives.

My Take – Every now and then a Bollywood actioner comes out which features a familiar doomsday plot with men and women in clandestine bureaus typing frantically into their PCs while hacking in and out of enemy networks in a matter of minutes. The heroes don spiffy street wear, or trench coats, and speak into earpieces, while the villains, more often than not are just bearded sages. A plot done to death in the past 25 years, especially in the post 26/11 decade.

And yet, it does not dissuade the Hindi film-makers from venturing out every now and then into their familiar zone on the pretext of trying out something new. But, pray, what’s left there to explore which has not been done? Well, unless one comes up with some kind of a zany idea. If you have seen the promos of this film, turns out debutante writer and director Behzad Khambata has one.

Acting as a launchpad for Karan Kapadia, son of late actress/costume designer Simple Kapadia and nephew of veteran actress Dimple Kapadia, the film has a promising premise, some novel ideas and is overall impressive in terms of fights sequences and in delivering the necessary shocking twists and turns.

Unfortunately, it fails to deliver due the presence of a poor screenplay and shabby story telling techniques. While the film has its standout moments and is mostly engrossing, a taut execution would have helped matters a lot.

The story follows SS Dewan (Sunny Deol), the chief of Anti-Terrorism Squad unit, who at midnight finds out that a container filled with explosive materials have made its way into the city of Mumbai. With no idea of the target, the trigger, and the number of bombs, Dewan and his team get to working with whatever they have.

However, an opportunity comes knocking when a hospital calls informing about an accident victim (Karan Kapadia) being checked into the ICU but with a ticking tomb hardwired into his chest. If it goes off, so will 24 other bombs. While Dewan sends his two trusted officers, Rohit (Karanvir Sharma) and Husna (Ishita Dutta) to begin tracing the other bombs, he gets to interrogate the accident victim who other than recalling his name to be Hanif, can’t remember anything due to his massive concession.

While the tests prove that Hanif isn’t lying about his state of mind, Dewan is convinced something bigger is in play, a forthcoming event which probably involves, Maqsood (Jameel Khan), a known terrorist who leads the organization called the Tehreer-e-Hind.

Yes, the chest bomb angle is the only drop of novelty you get to see here, as the rest 107-minute-long saga of the cops-versus-terrorists is only on the predictable lines. The film does actually start on a promising note, with the opening scene being both both symbolic and engaging. It immediately draws you into the urgency of the situation, which director Khambata manages to maintain throughout the film. But by the time the close-to-two-hour-long film ends, the urgency gives way to convolution and the suspense that served as the backbone of the film in the opening minutes gets overcooked by the time the film nears its conclusion.

Even its uniquely placed protagonist fails to make the larger point –about the precarious social positioning and perception of the Indian Muslim. Apart from crater-sized loopholes and cringe-worthy dialogues, it caters to every possible Bollywood-Muslim stereotype and age-old tropes. All the Muslims have long beards; call each other Janaab’, wear mascara, scars, and wax eloquent in Urdu during the climax scenes. While last year’s Anubhav Sinha directed Mulk, made the point strongly and effectively, this one falters in doing so.

While the concept is convincing and had ample scope, the screenplay never utilities its full potential. Instead, the script just goes about like a rolling stone, taking every piece of moss (brainwashing of children by Islamic terrorist groups, 2002 Gujarat riots, and the arrest of Dewan’s son in a drug possession case) along the way.

The brainwashing element could have stoked up the interest but unfortunately, it is only flirted with. In fact, true to the mental state of its protagonist, the film feels like a film constantly catching up with itself. The plot is a bit gaffed: the trailer had promised a Jason Bourne-like scenario of a suspected terrorist losing his memory ahead of a terror attack, all while a high-risk detonator ticks away on his chest. Not much is made of this central log line, as characters lay down their cards all too quickly and plunge into action-film territory. I was initially put off by this convenient shifting of tracks until I was reminded of the actors playing cat and mouse.

On the technical front though the film is impressive, starting with RDee‘s cinematography. Quite many scenes are shot in closed premises, cluttered alleys and dingy hideouts and the camera focus doesn’t relent from where it’s supposed to keep your attention. Even the action sequences by Vikram Dahiya are very smoothly choreographed, performed and shot.

What keeps the film engaging though is the acting. Debutante Karan Kapadia brings a lot of freshness and ruggedness to his role. He is immensely convincing in the role of a disoriented alleged suicide bomber but is presented in tropey fashion. The film, rather than smartly dealing with his mental state, tilt it to one side, making the eventual revelation rather obvious. Despite the lack of strategy in graphing his character, he proves to be an immensely watchable leading man, because of his unconventional intensity and the organic ability to pull off action sequences.

Sunny Deol once again plays himself, but for some reason also looks notably tired except when he is pouting those high octane dialogues in his trademark style. In supporting roles, Karanvir Sharma is terrific, while Ishita Dutta also gets her moments to shine. Jameel Khan as the evil terrorist is such a stereotype that there is nothing even remotely intriguing about him. On the whole, ‘Blank’ is a hit-and-miss action thriller with littered with a damp squib screenplay and shoddy execution.

Directed – Behzad Khambata

Starring – Sunny Deol, Karan Kapadia, Karanvir Sharma

Rated – PG13

Run Time – 107 minutes

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