- Release Date: 19/11/21
- Platform: Netflix
- Cast: Kartik Aaryan, Mrunal Thakur, Amruta Subhash
- Director: Ram Madhvani
Arjun Pathak (Kartik Aaryan) was happily married to Soumya (Mrunal Thakur). Soumya was madly in love with him and the two experienced success and marital bliss growing both in socio-economic stature and experience together. Arjun started off small but made his way to the top of the food chain in the TRT News channel where he ended up being a prime-time anchor for 5 years. He won the best anchor award 3 years in a row. Things were looking good for him when s sudden unethical action cost him the love and respect of his wife who then filed for divorce. The same year he goofed up on his job as an anchor, was demoted, and sent downstairs to manage a radio show by his boss Ankita (Amruta Subhash).
Things were beginning to look worse than they could ever be for Arjun when one fine morning, Raghubeer Mhata calls his radio program and tells him that he will be blowing up the Mumbai Sea- Link. After a brief exchange, Arjun abuses Mhata and dares him to deliver on his words. Raghubeer does. The Sea – link is paralyzed by a bomb that destroys it partially and whatever is left of it hangs on a balance with Raghubeer holding sway over how long it will stand its ground. Amid all the cacophony, Arjun sees an opportunity to regain his lost glory and also win back the love of his life. What happens next is what Dhamaka is all about.
Dhamaka is a scene-to-scene recreation of “The Terror Live”, a South Korean film written and directed by Kim Byung-woo. Ram Madhvani did well by choosing a rather obscure film to remake as it hasn’t been widely viewed by Indian audiences. This ensures that the novelty of the plot and the thrills of Dhamaka are preserved for the Indian audiences to enjoy firsthand. The Terror Live is a film that received good reviews and one that I watched immediately after I learned that Dhamaka was a remake of it. Even though I finished the film in one sitting and then immediately watched it again, it proved to be an arduous watch for me. The film unfolds almost in a single room and is extremely dialog-heavy because of its story and treatment. Watching it with subtitles and keeping pace with what was being said in quick successions nearly gave me a headache. But I was still ok with taking the trouble as it was such an engrossing watch.
I also realized that a good Indian remake would make for an interesting watch owing to the nature of the story and the social message that the film tries to put out. In today’s day and age, the film’s depiction of the media was bound to find takers among people who believed in the moral bankruptcy and questionable presentation and reporting of the news by the top media houses. I was elated to note that Dhamaka turned out to be almost as proficient a remake as I could have wanted it to be. There are issues in the storytelling and execution but they are not big enough to mar the audiences’ experience of watching the film.
Like its original, Dhamaka unfolds almost entirely in a single location but it never gets repetitive or boring. The proceedings are kept breezy by the intelligent writing that jumps from one plot point to another in quick succession. Mhata is initially shrugged off as a fake by Arjun who then almost immediately realizes that he is the real deal when he blows up the Sea-Link (twist). Arjun sees an opportunity and spends the next few minutes arm-wrestling his boss into submission and giving him what he wants before he delivers them the highest TRPs that the channel has received in months. His boss gives in to all his demands.
All looks good for him to score big when Mhata refuses to continue with the show unless he is paid 21 lakhs (a new twist). The amount is quickly paid after some tense moments and the show begins. Within minutes Mhata asks for what he actually wants and it proves to be difficult for Arjun to arrange (a new twist). He refuses and this infuriates Mhata who goes on to reveal something that portrays Arjun in a bad light and takes him out of the show (a new twist). Arjun’s boss puts someone else on the call who then has a bomb go off on her face (a new twist) as Mhata refuses to talk to anyone else except Arjun. Arjun gets back his place and the show goes on.
From the above snippet, you can get an idea of how quickly the balances shift in the story, and the characters have the advantages in the narrative tilt in their favor. This ensures that there isn’t a single dull moment in the entire film and the pace of it is breakneck. What makes this tension and thrill even more real is how well the inner workings of the TRT Media are rendered. The people talk fast, commitments are made in seconds and then forgotten unceremoniously, people become heroes and villains in the blink of an eye and no one is ever bigger than the manufactured news itself.
This aspect of the film adds a touch of perceived realism to the film and makes it appeal to the audiences a little more. I have never seen the innards of a newsroom nor do I have any idea of how it might work. I am also unaware of the various economic and social dynamics that drive the news but I have seen it being rendered similarly over the years in different mediums. Thus what I saw in Dhamaka felt real and made an even stronger impact because of the gusto and the physicality that makers put in their version in addition to the already established and well-known tropes.
Kartik Aaryan is fantastic as Arjun Pathak. He is able to render the various shades of the character with honesty and affectivity. There are moments when you understand that he is pretending to be the good man that he wants the other to believe in. Then there are moments when he is maneuvered by people who are a lot more dangerous and smart than he is and he is left disillusioned. These are the moments when you truly feel for his character. When a protagonist is able to extract a range of different emotions from the audience, it can be said that he has done a good job with the character.
Amruta Subhash as Arjun’s boss is fantastic. She feels even more real than the protagonist and is unabashed in her rendering of a vicious businesswoman who would go to any lengths to get what she wants. Mrunal Thakur has limited screen time and yet she leaves quite an impact in the scenes that she is a part of. Soham Majumdar as Raghubeer Mhata is terrific. His voice and mannerisms make up for most of his essay as he makes an appearance only at the end of the film but they are enough to convey the fear and the dread that is associated with a character that has its hands on the remote of a bomb that can annihilate a part of a city. His rendering of a character who is a laborer is believable and leaves quite an impact by the end of it all.
I had a good time with Dhamaka and that will be the case with most others who don’t look at it as anything more than a piece of disposable entertainment. There are logical issues and plot loopholes galore. The sense of realism often goes for a toss and even the performances can be over the top in certain sequences. However, the film is still able to hold on to our attention with its story and execution. There is no point in nitpicking a commercial entertainer like this as then it is bound to leave you unsatisfied. However, if you chose to view it as a piece of entertainment that tries to anchor itself on real-life problems and tragedies then there is definitely some fun and entertainment to be had in this film.