Direction: Abhinay Deo Production: T Series, RDP Motion Pictures Cast: Irrfan, Kirti Kulhari, Arunoday Singh, Divya Dutta, Urmila Matondkar, Omi Vaidya, Anuja Sathe, Pradhuman Singh Story & Screenplay: Parveez Sheikh Cinematography: Jay Oza Sound Design: Dara Singh;
Music: Mikey McCleary, Parth Parekh Editing: Huzefa Lokhandwala Hindi / Drama, Comedy / 139 Mins / India / 2018
When it takes more than 10 minutes of screen time before the hero gets to speak his first dialogue, you can be certain that our film of the week will be different. And with director Abhinay Deo the ‘different’ bit is only to be expected. Remember ‘Delhi Belly’? Exactly. Irrfan as Dev Kaushal doesn’t talk much or giveaway too much of his mind either with colleagues or his wife Reena (Kirti Kulhari). And to me, this silence is the USP of ‘Blackmail’, a film in which there is so much action going on anyway. Whether it is blackmail which Dev initiates against his wife’s lover (a smart way to pay pending bills); or his despicable, raunchy colleague Anand Tripathi’s (Pradhuman Singh) ways of guessing by the size of a girl’s lips whether she has ever kissed or not or reaching conclusions about her being a virgin basis his first glimpse of her; or his boss’ (Omi Vaidya) obsession when it comes to selling toilet paper; or the manner in which Reena’s lover Ranjit Arora (Arunoday Singh) gets his suspicious wife Dolly (Divya Dutta) to cough up the amount to pay Dev. At one point, matters become so complicated that Dev ends up funding his own blackmail! Things get more exciting when a private detective (Gajraj Rao as Chavla) enters the scene and the innocent-girl-in-the-office Prabha (Anuja Sathe in a great cameo) turns out extra smart.
It’s interesting how multiple tracks in the plot unfold and the characters change shades faster than chameleons. And keeping it all well looped and together is Huzefa Lokhandwala’s editing which does not allow slack. The beginning undoubtedly is slow and in places tiresome. On the one hand is Vaidya as the irritating DK – Dev’s boss who keeps coming up with weird marketing strategy on how to sell My Handy toilet paper and on the other is the leery Anand who makes nauseating remarks about women in general and about Prabha in particular. Both men are not only unsavoury but also appear redundant to the overall scheme of things. But as the end draws near, the audience gets to enjoy how it all ties up neatly to form a whole.
Irrfan as always, steals the show – As a man not given to conversation, he imagines a lot of blood and gore but finds other ways to exact revenge. He does not judge when his little ‘blackmail’ secret is out. Instead, he makes the best of a bad situation, which threatens to spiral out of control any minute. There are times when he ends up being blackmailed too.
Blackmail is a complex web of intrigue, human frailties and in the end, a reflection of how poorly our society fares today – where there is no complete black or complete white. Life and the people it houses always hover in the grey areas. Screenplay writer Parveez Sheikh builds up the complicated narrative to fever pitch while cinematographer Jay Oza ensures that the dark narrative is complemented with dim, ominous overtones in lighting and handheld camerawork. Inspired in the past by foreign television series like Sherlock for framing and contrast lighting, Oza’s work speaks volumes here as well.