Director: Raja Chanda

Cast: Dev, Rukmini Maitra, Chandan Sen, Ashim Roy Chowdhury, Buddhadeb Bhattacharya

Is it even possible to not like Dev? It’s not a rhetorical question – because it begs the next question: is it even possible to watch a typical Dev film for a critical review? His films occupy that rarefied space every star aspires to, where his or her films are impervious to reviews. Few stars have his ability to hold your attention in the most banal of sequences. Fewer still can elicit the kind of frenzied whistling and applause he does with a dialogue as mundane as ‘I am going to get married!’ that renders the next couple of minutes inaudible. Give him the corniest of situations and he has the audience eating out of his hand with just a knowing wink and a mischievous smile.

A young girl goes missing and her old father runs from pillar to post for some information. We are provided real-life statistics about human trafficking – complete with Bengal’s dubious distinction of accounting for 44 per cent of all such cases reported in India. Police investigations point to a syndicate operating out of the Middle East and the action shifts to Dubai, where Dev (yes, Dev is Dev – he always is) is a singer at an upscale club. A young journalist Meghna (Rukmini Maitra) follows her own leads to uncover the men behind the racket. Needless to say, they fall in love.

Kidnap is the kind of film where the hero returns home early morning with a red sari for the heroine and immediately cuts to a dream sequence in the sand dunes with the heroine in the said sari and the hero, moving in slow-mo in a riot of colourful shirts

However, all of these are just pegs for a film that ticks all the boxes for a standard Dev outing. The first half explores his goofy, self-deprecating self – just watch him charm the pants off the audience as he chases a purse snatcher and then tries to back out, with the girl he is trying to impress watching on, when the delinquent pulls out a knife. A pre-interval ‘twist’ (involving a shootout) you can see coming for miles – that nevertheless produces another round of frenzied hooting – leads to his one-man-terminator-in-a-vest avatar in the second half as he tracks down Meghna who has now gone missing.

Kidnap is the kind of film where the hero returns home early morning with a red sari for the heroine – who does not wear one – and immediately cuts to a dream sequence in the sand dunes with the heroine in the said sari and the hero, moving in slow-mo (again to frantic applause), in a riot of colourful shirts. And it does not matter, because it is a Dev film! It’s the kind of film where the hero, surrounded by a phalanx of goons, overcomes all of them (again in slow-mo calibrated to stimulate riotous celebration in the aisles) while the background score goes ‘Hey! ‘Hey!’ ‘Hey!’ And it does not matter, because it is a Dev film! It’s the kind of film that has a don uttering what will probably be the dialogue of the year: ‘We are criminals but not 100 %, maybe 99 % – because we deal in drugs and arms but not women!’ And it does not matter, because it is a Dev film! It is the kind of film which, with the hero about to take off on the climactic do-or die mission, segues to another dream song sequence out of the blue. And it does not matter, because it is a Dev film!

Dev and only Dev can get away with a line as hilarious as ‘It’s a kidnap!’ delivered in all solemnity and earnestness

Well, one can crib. For a Dev film, the first half is rather sluggish and it almost takes forever for the adrenalin-pumping sequences in the second half to kick in. For someone as well-muscled as our hero, the film probably needed a really menacing and strongly etched bad guy. Entire battalions can go through the holes in the script. Plot contrivances abound. But what the heck! It’s a Dev film and as this review began with the question: is it even possible to not like Dev? Dev and only Dev can get away with a line as hilarious as ‘It’s a kidnap!’ delivered in all solemnity and earnestness. Everything else is just noise.

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