Director: Behzad Khambata
Cast: Sunny Deol, Karan Kapadia, Karanvir Sharma
“Harish yeh niklega ya nahin,” Sunny Deol playing ATS chief SS Dewan asks angrily. You might think Dewan is asking about a particularly stubborn food stain on his shirt. Actually the yeh in question is a bomb embedded into a man’s chest – not strapped on as we’ve seen countless times on screen and sadly, in life. But a bomb actually stitched into his body. The contraption can’t be taken out because, we are told: uski dil ki dhadkan bomb ki battery hai. Yeh mara toh phata, bomb agar nikale toh phata. It’s a dead man’s switch.
Heartbeats as bomb batteries – that’s pretty dodgy science. I also wondered what kind of needle and thread would you use for this but debutant writer-director Behzad Khambata is not a filmmaker who lets logic get in his way. He is attempting here to tell a tough tale about tough men – Hanif, the dazed and confused suicide bomber with the Ghajini-like situation of short-term memory loss, ATS chief Deewan who is doing his duty but also handling family drama, which incidentally gets forgotten halfway through the film and the terrorist chief Maqsood who is a menacing father figure but he also gets a moment to elaborate on how religion and terrorism, like everything else in this world, is dhanda.
A suicide bomber who can’t remember his mission is an inherently intriguing idea. And Hanif might have made more of an impression if the script was less sloppy. But Blank peddles in clichés – the bearded Muslim fanatic, Sunny Deol’s dhai kilo ka haath, the corrupt system. Through most of the film, Sunny scowls like his life depends on it. He has the determined gaze of a man who has spent decades playing the same role. Subtlety has never been his forte. But his oversized presence gives the action punch, literally and figuratively. These sequences are the best part of the film. They are staged with skill, the story cutting furiously between different narrative threads. However, each time the suspense builds, the logic-free plot deflates it. All of which builds to an end twist that makes little sense.
Through it, debutant Karan Kapadia tries to be both – poker-faced as the character demands but equally ferocious. He’s most convincing when he’s beating up people.
When you decide on a title like Blank, you must make sure that your film is exactly the opposite. Otherwise you unwittingly end up providing ammunition for critics and viewers. You remember Paul Verhoeven’s deliciously awful film about Las Vegas strippers called Showgirls. New Yorker critic Anthony Lane had written in his review that the title is “not so much a noun as an imperative”. Here too Blank isn’t merely an adjective, it’s an entire sensibility. Which, as you can imagine, makes for a pretty dull movie.