Synopsis – Reassigned from TV to radio, a frustrated anchor sees both danger and opportunity when he receives threatening calls on the air.
My Take – Back in 2013, as the credits rolled for the Kim Byung-woo directed The Terror Live, I remember thinking how well the film’s story and themes could work in an Indian based setting.
Now eight years later, National Award-winning director Ram Madhvani, who has well proven to be an astute filmmaker with the hostage feature Neerja (2016) and the 2021 Emmy Nominated Disney+ Hotstar series Aarya, brings his version of the tale to Netflix, with a promise to deliver its fair share of chills and thrills.
Thankfully with director Madhvani’s quite evident ability to craft suspense still intact, this official remake too successfully manages to be highly watchable thriller, delivering some poignant thoughts amidst all the explosions and exposures.
Sure, the film is flawed, goes overboard at times and overly sentimental in the climax, yet the 104 minute run time insures that the film never dips in pace, constantly ramps up the tension and refuses to relinquish its grip throughout, resulting in quite the swift entertainment.
The story follows Arjun Pathak (Kartik Aaryan), who is going through a tough time. Not only has he been booted from his position as a prime time TV news anchor and relegated to being a radio jockey, his wife and fellow journalist, Soumya Mehra Pathak (Mrunal Thakur), has just sent him divorce papers.
However, an opportunity comes in the form of a mysterious phone call, which while initially seeming to be just a commoner angry about his financial condition, soon escalates when he threatens to blow up the Sea-Link Bridge in Mumbai. While Arjun instantly dismisses it as a prank, the first explosion leaves him shocked and surprised. But rather than calling the authorities, Arjun sees this as an opportunity to get his prime time slot back, negotiates with his ruthless producer Ankita (Amruta Subhash) to get a live spot on the air, and continues his conversation with the terrorist.
But what begins as a well versed plan soon gets completely out of control as the terrorist continues to threaten with more bombs, including one in Arjun’s ear piece, in exchange of an apology from an unwilling government for an accidental incident that took place some time ago.
What ensues from here is a game of cat and mouse, as the authorities scramble to trace the origin of the call while Arjun keeps the terrorist busy. With rival networks snapping at their heels too, desperate for an exclusive scoop, Arjun tries to navigate this difficult minefield before it’s too late.
This is an adrenaline-soaked thriller through and through, as director Ram Madhvani and Puneet Sharma’s screenplay doesn’t waste much time in coming to the point. Even though we see the horror filled images of huge flames engulfing the bridge peering out of a window or on large TV screens, the terror and its aftermath unfolds within the four walls of the studio and in the frantic movements of those trying to get hold of the situation.
Criticizing media and unethical journalism practices, the film delves into a raging issue that’s most relevant now than ever, the business of breaking news, who tend to prioritize sensationalism over substance, money over ethics, quantity over quality and success over humanity.
News is manufactured and generated. All’s fair in the TRP game as the shrewd opportunist Arjun is compelled to rethink his ideals and what he truly stands for, as he watches the mayhem around him in horror. The character of Arjun’s boss Ankita represents this cold-blooded side of the industry.
Of course, in doing so, her character has been exaggerated to an extent that it appears comically evil. She has heavy-duty dialogue like ‘the show must go on’, and another one comparing a news anchor to an actor who must put in the drama to regale their audience. But given the entire project was completed in 10 days, with the whole cast and crew staying in a bio-bubble of sorts during the peak of the COVID-19 outbreak, it is pretty impressive for what’s here.
Performance wise, Kartik Aaryan is sure to silence his critics. An unusual choice for a role as demanding as this, here, Aaryan pushes himself like never before. While Arjun Pathak may not always be the easiest to root for, but Aaryan delivers an excellent performance, charming us as a loving husband during the opening montage and immediately losing us as soon as we meet him at present, a bedraggled radio host staring down his divorce papers.
Aaryan especially excels in scenes where, having won the career jackpot, throws his weight around forgetting a junior colleague’s name and usurping another colleague’s TV slot.
Billed as a special appearance, Mrunal Thakur does well in those limited scenes. In supporting roles, Amruta Subhash, Vikas Kumar and Vishwajeet Pradhan are also good. On the whole, ‘Dhamaka’ is a compelling thriller that delivers through an intense, though somewhat exaggerated, yet powerful story.
Directed – Ram Madhvani
Rated – PG15
Run Time – 104 minutes