In a new series, FC Critics Survey, every few weeks we ask a handful of film critics one question. This week we ask – what's the worst case of miscasting you've come across?
It's always risky to have a big star as part of an ensemble in an intimate indie. Aamir Khan's best work is usually in a broader register, but the makers of Dhobi Ghat probably reckoned he'd be fine playing a sensitive artist, given his own similar reputation. Instead, the film unlocked the actor's worst staring-into-the-middle-distance instincts; his scenes with the affectless Monica Dogra were like bad Pinter. The film is fascinating nonetheless, but it's difficult not to imagine Akshaye Khanna eating up the part.
Roping in Bollywood actors for a Telugu film is a perfect recipe for disaster. And that's exactly what the makers of Saaho did. They wanted to make a pan-Indian film, so they brought Shraddha Kapoor, Neil Nitin Mukesh, Chunky Pandey, Mandira Bedi, Evelyn Sharma, Jackie Shroff, and Mahesh Manjrekar on board, along with Arun Vijay (Tamil film actor) and Lal (Malayalam film actor). Now, the problem here is that nobody, in this list, understands, or speaks, Telugu. The makers could have easily made a Hindi film and dubbed it into other languages. But they chose to make a kitschy bilingual, ugh!
On paper, it does come across as a rational choice since Kayamkulam Kochunni according to Kerala folklore was an ordinary man who grew into a dreaded outlaw. While Nivin gets the earlier part of the narrative quite easily—where the young Kochunni does odd jobs for a living and also shows occasional acts of bravery, it's during the crucial transformation arc that Nivin loses it. He fails to make the shift into this daring Robin Hood who can fight a dozen men, hoodwink the rich, and look formidable in turn. It's there in that preparatory song where Mohanlal's Ithikarapakki trains Kochunni—where he jumps over two thick logs of wood, carrying two buckets of water or dragging Ithikarapakki with ropes and you know it's all an act. Nivin's body language looks too stiff and flabby to pull it off and it's clear the actor hasn't really worked hard to physically make that transformation or believe it himself that he can do all these brave deeds or even ride a horse!. So, when he gives that Kayamkulam Kochunni stare, you stare right back. And adding salt to the wound, Mohanlal's Ithikarapakki's cameo completely upstages Kochunni. It would perhaps have worked better with a Prithviraj Sukumaran or Tovino Thomas playing Kochunni.
Yash Chopra's Lamhe is perfect until supermodel Deepak Malhotra shows up as Sridevi's beau and nips Anil Kapoor's growing infatuation for her in the bud. It returns to its flawless form once again as soon as his character is bumped off to focus on the second chapter of Lamhe's romance. But not until we've suffered a good deal of his mousy dialogue delivery, the infamous 'Pallo' and flimsy performance. Malhotra is easy on the eyes but commands zero screen presence. The role needed someone with larger-than-life charm and dynamism. Malhotra neither has the charisma nor insight to play a husband who is sensitive to her wife's admirer and holds his own in front of the mighty Sridevi.