Hill-stations really do seem to be having their moment at the movies. Whether it be the deliciously subversive Sandeep Aur Pinky Faraar or the godawful Koi Jaane Na, or even Sanjay Kapoor's middling show The Last Hour, they have all been set in these quaint little towns. Collar Bomb is yet another addition to that. The narrative is set around Manoj Hesi, a celebrated cop, and follows the frequented template of one-man-trying-to-save-a-bunch-of-people-held-in-hostage. The people here are children, trapped in their school.
The idea is compelling. If the race-against-time genre is well done, it can serve as a crackling, tense thriller. But Collar Bomb, which starts off as cheesy fun, quickly unravels into a stale and unconvincing thriller marred by its own logical loopholes. The ham-fisted execution is present throughout, but I was ready to ignore that if the makers could provide us with some dumb, cheap thrills. In that, director Dnyanesh Zoting succeeds only to an extent. To give the film credit where it's due, I was largely immersed in its first half. There are some arresting moments, and even though some sequences come off as shrill, the screenplay is nevertheless engaging. It is exactly midway where Collar Bomb hits the proverbial iceberg. The grip softens, and sequences begin to feel repetitive. The soft-belly syndrome kicks in, and the climactic twist is so lame that it completely undermines the film's enjoyable portions. There's also attempted commentary here, which talks about how we judge people too quickly based on their appearance, behaviour or other socio-economic factors. But it's delivered so synthetically that it makes no impact whatsoever. It also skirts over rampant Islamophobia, never really trying to dig deep into it. The sketchiness extends to the characters as well.
Sumitra (played by Asha Negi) is a morally upright cop trying to do her best, but we never get to know much else about her. The same goes for Shoaib Ali, the terrorist who's been strapped with a bomb. It's difficult to feel anything for these people, and while I don't expect the makers to cram backstories into an 86-minute film, the lack of nuance takes you only further away from the film, especially when the film begins to get more and more ridiculous by the moment.
The performances range from good to serviceable. In a film that revolves around children in hostage, the kids have bewilderingly little to do. Asha Negi and Rajshri Deshpande do what they can with the limited material and their poorly-written characters. It is up to Jimmy Sheirgill, then, to save the day, and he does it well. He's played grey, messy characters many times before, most recently in last year's Your Honor. Over here, he's as impressive and redeems the film to some extent. But this is a film undeserving of his talent.
Collar Bomb is ultimately a mess. It begins with promise, but the constant effort to make your jaw drop is unnerving. It's a mishmash of too many familiar templates. It doesn't do justice to any of them and doesn't even come off as an original. And while it's refreshing to see a Hindi movie below the ninety-minute mark, the film is crisp but never brisk. With sharper writing and direction, this could've been silly, escapist viewing that spoke about the inherent prejudices that society conditions us to believe. It's disappointing, then, that this explosion has all the energy of a deflated balloon.