BLACKMAIL (2018)

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Dev (Irrfan Khan) a typical middle-class man with typical office issues and a typical boss, has what can be called a wife, Kriti Kulhari, better than he might have dreamed off and that too courtesy an arranged marriage. He knows that too as we see him watching his wife tossing in her bed through a peek hole, admiring her beauty when he should be the one she should be tossing around with. Obviously, that isn’t something that would head in the right direction as Dev finds out one day that she is having an affair with Ranjit (Arunoday Singh). At first, he feels like murdering the guy. Then he thinks of murdering his own wife but then he decides to instead blackmail the guy as that would help him to at least pay off his monthly EMIs. Little does he know that the chain of events his demand would set in motion would soon engulf his whole life leading him to commit crimes that he would not have even in his dreams.

I liked Blackmail quite a bit as it is a satire on the middle-class men and his petty issues which for him are hardly petty. The film has been touted as a black comedy to which I have to disagree. This may be a satirical film but the comedy quotient is very low. I didn’t find myself giggling or even smirking at any point in time. However, that doesn’t mean that it isn’t an interesting film. Blackmail sucks you into its narrative almost instantaneously and retains that hold all throughout the story leading to a crescendo of a finale. Frankly speaking, I never saw a few twists and turns coming my way that this film delivers towards the end enhancing it’s thrill factor way over what was expected of a film like this.

The narrative is intricate and the various plots and subplots crisscross each other’s path affecting the respective tales and also the overall climax. There are not 1 or 2 but 4 blackmails afoot in this tale and they all add up in the end to summarize the tale. It was easy for a director to get puzzled and lose his/her way through this jumbled tale, but Abhinav Deo who has made a film of this type before that was, by the way, funnier and quirkier knows his way around the maze. He keeps the story ticking at a good pace and uses cinematic elements to make the twists and the turns easily understandable to the common masses and at the same time not letting the film become a tried and tested formulaic outing with nothing new to offer.

Deo plays the middle-class card to perfection. When you see the film you fully understand the thinking mechanism of the people involved. The blackmail amounts run as low as 30,000/- and as high as 1, 20,000/-. We are also shown how the blackmailer arrives at these numbers letting us know how even when presented with endless opportunity the mind of the middle-class man remains tied to his boundaries. Interestingly, it’s only because of this constriction that the game spills over for as long as it does in the film. Towards the end, the film gets violent and this is where it loses some of its believability. The only time, I questioned its realism was with the manner in which the police are depicted. They had enough in their hands to nab Dev but they don’t. I just couldn’t understand why they didn’t? However, that’s one folly that we can forgive in a film that is otherwise fairly down to earth and rooted in realism.

Irrfan is brilliant as ever. I don’t think I even have to mention that. That is something that we have come to expect of the man and he has not disappointed for the last few years. He has been good in bad films and over the years he hasn’t done too many bad films either. I loved the way his silence is used to depict the shattering disgust and pain that he is holding inside. Evidently, he loves his wife. But his middle-class needs and mentality get the better of him. Towards the end, he makes a choice that is even more shocking going by the kind of man that he is. It all adds up to a big jolt that the finale is. Kriti Kulhari is superb in her role. She should be getting better and more complex roles now. I believe she is one of the prettiest heroines out there today in Bollywood and her beauty is an essential part of the whole hullaballoo as it is easily one of the reasons that compel Dev not to kick her out of his life in the first place. He is in awe of her. Kulhari plays that card to perfection. Arunoday’s Ranjit is a crazy fellow and he unleashes his wacky side in this tale. His act feels perfect for the man that he is playing. Divya Dutta as Ranjit’s wife is interesting even though she has a smallish role.

Overall, Blackmail has an interesting story to tell. It is devoid of much comedy and the people who will be walking into it expecting a sorely Delhi Belly will be disappointed. It is a more subtle film with real people and real problems. If you look at it from the perspective of a standalone film without any excess baggage of expectations and lay back to Deo’s most successful film, Blackmail will work out just fine for you.

Rating : 3/5 (3 out of 5 Stars)

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