Cuttputlli (2022) Review!!

Synopsis – When a small town gets plunged into the nightmare of serial killings, rookie cop Arjan embarks on a chase for the truth and unravels a gruesome conspiracy.

My Take – Unlike most genres that are dime a dozen all around, Indian cinema unfortunately has not found much success in the psychological thriller sub-genre particularly, with very few exceptional cases in between, that too mainly down south. Which gave birth to one such rare triumph in the form of writer-director Ram Kumar‘s 2018 Tamil thriller Ratsasan starring Vishnu Vishal and Amala Paul, which deservingly found immense praise for its performance, terrific score, intensity, structure and engaging screenplay. With its Telugu remake titled Rakshasudu (2019), also finding immense success, it was a no-brainer than a Hindi remake would soon follow through.

Released on Disney+ Hotstar, the Hindi remake which sees Akshay Kumar don the police officer’s uniform once again and re-team with Bell Bottom (2021) director Ranjit M Tewari and co-writer Aseem Arrora, is a frame-by-frame remake of the original with a few changes done here and there.

Yet, by large, the resulting film is a good watch, simply because it holds on to the original so tightly. Despite its strained moments, the 2018 film grabbed your attention and so does this one, resulting in an intriguing serial killer story that deserves your 134 minutes of attention. With its cold and damp setting in a nondescript hill town, director Tewari gets the eerie atmospherics of a tense whodunit quite right and goes to the extremes of a serial killer’s psychopathic exploits keeping in mind the sensibilities of its target audience.

However, in comparison, where both Tewari and Arrora miss out by large is on their deliverance in the form of an underwhelming climax, which for some reason is mighty rushed. Given just mere minutes for the revealed killer to explain his actions, with the help of a quick flashback, the film never allows the reasoning to sink in as the end credits begin rolling.

Needless to say, if someone has seen the original, they would know what is going to happen, and probably may not remain hooked on to the tight screenplay. But, for newcomers this should prove to be a captivate watch.

The story follows Arjan Sethi (Akshay Kumar), a 36 year old aspiring filmmaker, who for the past seven years has unsuccessfully tried to sell his serial killer script to film producers. Continuously spurned for being too dark, Arjan ends up giving up on his dream and joins the police force upon advice from his sister Seema (Hrishitaa Bhatt) and his brother-in-law Narinder Singh (Chandrachur Singh), a sub inspector.

Posted in Kasauli, a small sleepy town in Himachal Pradesh, with Narinder, Arjan soon find himself in the middle of a series of gruesome murders all executed with the same modus operandi, the target being teenage schoolgirls and the brutalized face of Cinderella dolls left behind as signatures at each crime scene. Putting to use the years he spent researching, Arjan is convinced that a serial killer is in play. However, being a rookie with no prior field experience, Arjan is immediately mocked and dismissed for his theories by his colleagues, especially by his boss, SHO Gudia Parmar (Sargun Mehta), but as the killings don’t abate, Arjan ends up emerging as the best bet to catch the butcher in the quaint town.

Being mostly faithful to its source, the first half raises the height of the story line while the second half maintains the story on track without deviating. However, the Hindi remake does cut out some of the original’s flab, especially in the latter portions. If anything, this one is even more clinical than its source material, sticking closely to the investigation running as a tight, edge-of-the-seat thriller that doesn’t let you blink an eye.

Yes, there are plot points left unanswered throughout the screenplay, and lots of opportunities of creating a thrill missed, but still, somehow, the overall murder mystery manages to hold on its own. You’re constantly on the edge of your seat wanting to see what’s going to happen next and keep the curiosity going. At places, it does lose focus and digresses to not-so-great subplots, but thankfully, it comes back on track just in time. Barring a few annoyances, like the unnecessary flirtation that ensues between Arjan and Divya (Rakul Preet Singh), a kindly schoolteacher, the film moves along at a steady clip, dolling out information slowly and incrementally.

Sure, some of the underplaying works against here, especially in the scenes that require the film to shift gears from police procedural to emotional drama. But, the setbacks add up to the thrills, with the ride being helped along by Rajeev Ravi’s naturalistic cinematography and Julius Packiam’s tense background score.

Without a doubt, the song ‘Saathiya’ could have been avoided as it comes at a juncture when a highly important scene takes place right after it. The revelation of the killer’s identity is similarly rushed through. In murder mysteries, the climax is most crucial, but here, the last sequence involving the serial killer is so rushed and doesn’t give any breathing space for the villain to explain his actions. A little more time allotted to that segment could have made the ending sharper and clearer.

Performance wise, Akshay Kumar is far more restrained, understated and watchful. Akshay sells the struggle to be taken seriously by his superiors and makes every effort to look the part of a 36-year-old bachelor, as projected in the film. He brings the sense of urgency and helplessness that makes his act look pretty effortless. As always Rakul Preet Singh looks drop dead gorgeous and makes her presence felt despite the limited scope of her role.

In supporting roles, the underrated Chandrachur Singh once again excels, Hrishitaa Bhatt is effective and Sargun Mehta delivers comfortably as a tough talking top cop. In other roles, Gurpeeet Ghuggi, Shahid Lateef and Sujith Shanker are decent, Joshua LeClaire is impactful. On the whole, ‘Cuttputlli’ is a worthy remake that delivers an engaging serial killer thriller.

Directed –

Starring  – Akshay Kumar, Rakul Preet Singh, Chandrachur Singh

Rated – NR

Run Time – 134 minutes

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