Synopsis – The lines between love and obsession blur in this romantic thriller packed with unpredictable twists and sharp turns.
My Take – Kartik Aaryan is definitely on the roll! While he found immense popularity with roles in films like Sonu Ke Titu Ki Sweety (2018), Luka Chuppi (2019) and Pati Patni Aur Woh (2019), the surprising massive commercial success of Bhool Bhulaiyaa 2 (2022) has certainly cemented his status as a genuine star.
Though he showed excellent range in last year’s serious thriller Dhamaka, Kartik Aaryan continues to be known mainly for playing funny, outgoing and quirky characters. An impression that might change with this latest Disney+ Hotstar release, a psychological thriller in which he is unrecognizable to the extent that you get chills watching him on the screen.
From gaining 14kgs to adapting the mannerisms of an introvert, learning the skills of a dentist here, Kartik Aaryan has immersed himself in the titular character, flawlessly emoting joy, sorrow, love and lust with so much conviction, that too without any monologue. Only if the filmmakers had supported his efforts as well!
Directed by Shashanka Ghosh (Khoobsurat, Veere Di Wedding) and written by Parveez Shaikh, the resulting film is no doubt compelling enough to keep us engaged throughout, it is only when the realization hits that the clichéd storytelling is not much different from the multiple crime thriller series spread across various streaming channels, the sinking feeling begins churning in your mind.
With the exception of one or two sharp turns, a twist about halfway into the film and a certain glimpse of darkness in the climax, the screenplay follows a predictable template throughout and goes about ticking every box in the genre checklist, never delivering any major punches or unsettling reveals for a home run.
Yet, despite the hiccups the film marginally works particularly due to its lead actor who here makes a brave choice of switching off his chocolate image and take a career risk in the middle of his reign as a box office champion.
The story follows Dr. Freddy Ginwala (Kartik Aaryan), an introverted dentist who lives a lonely life hoping to find his soulmate one day. Spending his spare time painting miniature planes and hanging out with pet turtle named Hardy, Freddy has been signed up on a matrimonial site for a while now, but lack of compatibility has kept him from taking the next step. However, everything changes when he meets Kainaz Irani (Alaya F) at a wedding and immediately falls in love.
Though he is quite shaken when he finds out that she is in fact married to Rustom (Sajjad Delafrooz), a controlling and abusive restaurant owner, he jumps at the opportunity to get close to her, when she becomes a patient of his. As the narrative weaves its web of intrigue, we realize that Freddy has his mind on more than just extracting teeth. What follows is a twisted tale of love, betrayal and dark revenge, with drastic happenings.
The film sets out to be a psychological thriller, and does have a lot going for it early on. Here, director Shashanka Ghosh has created a dark and gloomy world to make us feel for Freddy. Right from the opening frame where he gets stood up by a prospective date to the climax, director Ghosh uses an eerie atmosphere of uncertainty around every character who crosses his path with Freddy. While Freddy’s infatuation is understandable, it is never quite believable to the limits it is illustrated.
It’s when the tables turn on the problematic protagonist that the film really gets going. After having gone to extraordinary lengths to attain her, Freddy is usurped, not by the forces of destiny, but by the very path he chose to walk. The transformation part of the narrative is largely believable and convincing. Even in real life, you never know what ticks beneath the quiet, unassuming, introverts amongst us. It is the ‘how’ that is the problem here.
The film’s biggest flaw is that it doesn’t feel unique enough. There are scenes where you feel like the writers held themselves back from going all out. Perhaps the weight of an A-list Bollywood actor put too much pressure on them during the writing sessions, or maybe they didn’t know where to take the story.
From start to finish, director Ghosh doesn’t try to challenge the audience in any way, bring them to the edge of their twist, or make them reel in disgust with the to-and-fro between Freddy and Kainaaz. While the plot focuses on the little sadistic acts of revenge, there is nothing into how it is planned. While the acts are quite cruel in nature, the lack of detailing make it all appear juvenile. What could have been something that keeps you at the edge of the seat and nerve-wrecked is turned into just a series of unbelievable events.
Writer Parveez Sheikh‘s story and screenplay appears to have far more substance on paper and the film could have been a decent examination of loneliness, its consequences and is a massive miss when it comes to understanding his childhood trauma and how he overcame it. Though the film often fumbles for messaging and is far too straightforward to excite and thrill, it sells its provocations well. Chief of which is a chilling turn by Kartik Aaryan as the sociopath dentist.
Kartik Aaryan excels in his part and will leave you surprised with his layered performance. The way he goes from being the sweet, shy and smiling dentist one moment to someone who is capable of plotting and planning something sinister is incredible. His turn is layered and satisfying to the core.
Alaya F makes the most of the screen time and manages to be impressive. Only into her second film, having debuted in Jawaani Deewani (2020), it is a tall task to play a femme fatale of sorts, yet she shows spunk, stepping up to play the antagonist to our antihero, effectively essaying the catalyst to his breaking and re-molding into a twisted and sinister being. Sadly, in supporting roles, Karan A. Pandit is laughably cartoonish, while Sajjad Delfrooz has been totally wasted. On the whole, ‘Freddy’ is an adequate psychological thriller elevated only by a terrific Kartik Aaryan.
Directed – Shashanka Ghosh
Rated – TVMA
Run Time – 116 minutes