Director: Abhinay Deo
Cast: Irrfan Khan, Kirti Kulhari, Arunoday Singh, Divya Dutta, Omi Vaidya, Pradhuman Singh, Anuja Sathe, Gajraj Rao
Blackmail is a twisted farce about multiple blackmails. It begins with a man, his unfaithful wife, and her lover but greed spreads like a contagion until almost every character in the film is blackmailing someone else. To watch the film is to spend 139 minutes with a den of vipers. Which is never a bad thing if the vipers are innovative enough.
Irrfan Khan plays Dev, a beleaguered corporate man working in a company that makes toilet paper. His life is a prison without bars. His boss, played by Omi Vaidya, is an America-returned, largely clueless, toilet paper evangelist who insists that employees rub the product on their cheeks to feel the softness. Each day Dev follows the same soul-sucking routine – he goes home to an indifferent wife and a micro-wave dinner. And then, he discovers that her joys are elsewhere. His response is novel – he starts to blackmail his wife’s lover. And there begin a series of unfortunate adventures.
Director Abhinay Deo taps into the frustration of the middle-class, middle-aged man, who is juggling a dead-end job with a dead-end marriage and monthly EMIs. As usual, Irrfan imbues the character with layers that the script doesn’t have – his fatigue, hopelessness and eventual satisfaction as he exacts revenge are sharply etched. And there are a host of fabulously unsavory characters – my favorite was Arunoday Singh as the low IQ lover who concocts a dimwitted scheme to save his own ass. With his granite muscles and goofy grin, Arunoday is instantly funny. At one point, he laments – mere paas protein powder ke liye paise nahin hai.
As usual, Irrfan imbues the character with layers that the script doesn’t have – his fatigue, hopelessness and eventual satisfaction as he exacts revenge are sharply etched.
Through the film, these oddballs keep popping up – watch out for the lady selling guns and the detective with a terrifically bad wig. But the screenplay by Parveez Sheikh doesn’t utilize them well enough. The story gets repetitive as one blackmail plays over another and soon enough, the energy deflates. Blackmail is about controlled chaos but to pull that off, you need much sharper writing and a faster pace. Blackmail is twenty minutes too long and unnecessarily bloated. At one point, Urmila Matondkar shows up in a nightclub. It’s nice to see her on screen again but it adds little to the film. I also wish the talented Kirti Kulhari had more to do. Abhinay clearly has a keen eye for the darkness and absurdity of daily life but Blackmail isn’t sparkling enough to sustain interest.