Dnyanesh Zoting's Collar Bomb starts off on a strange note. Akshay (Naman Jain), son of SHO Manoj Hesi (Jimmy Sheirgill), uses an episode from the life of Mohammad bin Tughlaq to enlighten his father (and us) on the consequences of making a wrong decision. A few minutes later, Manoj assumes a girl is smoking weed and expresses his will to make an arrest. His son corrects him, informing him that it's a beedi and that there is a trend and hashtag on Instagram supporting the use of beedi (#SmokingBeediIsCool). A few minutes later, their car hits a bird, leading to its death (#AccidentsAreNotCool). What do you learn from these opening highlights? One, the film will ride on a wrong decision made by a character. Two, Manoj judges people based on their outer appearances (he immediately puts the beedi girl in his bad books without knowing her). As for the accident, the bird turns out to be the western tragopan – the emperor of birds. In Collar Bomb, if anyone could be labelled "emperor", it's Manoj (he is the main character, after all). So either he will be greeted with death or degradation. The opening sequence does its job of providing a set-up, but it feels off. The scenarios play out like a to-do list and lack cohesiveness.
For a film that has hostages near a ticking time bomb and requires its protagonist to race against time, Collar Bomb comes across as gentle. There is no sense of urgency, no trace of thrill and certainly no tension in the proceedings. You know a thriller is not working when the characters run from one location to another, and you lie back and watch the events comfortably while sipping on your favourite soda as opposed to spilling it in agitation. When a suicide bomber, Shoeb Ali (Sparsh Srivastav), threatens to blow himself and other students up inside a school, Manoj is provided with the duty of completing three tasks, the success of which would defuse the bomb. The tasks do little to invigorate your excitement. Blood is shed, lives are put in danger, but you don't clench your fists and bite your teeth in trepidation. Do not blame your senses, as the fault lies in the film itself. There is just not enough meat to chew on, leaving you starving for more. It's a pity because whatever "meat" is offered looks delicious for your appetite.
Collar Bomb has a hero who might not be a hero at all. Manoj is a victim of questionable choices and corruption. A shady past, captured on video, could destroy his reputation if leaked to the public. Asha Negi as the tough cop Sumitra Joshi almost steals the spotlight. Watch her in action as she saves an elderly relative and controls a fierce mob outside a restaurant. She has enough fire in her to drive a solo movie. These few strengths are unfortunately not allowed to shine. Sumitra's rage is diluted so that Manoj can steer the wheel. And as for the lead's scandal, it's reduced to a functional plot-point and is stripped of moral consequence. The finale is half-baked, rushed and looks as if filmed hastily in a short amount of time.
The film also suffers from the curious case of unintentional comedy. A frustrated Shoeb asking the kids to stop crying makes you split your sides laughing. At one point, Manoj reminds Sumitra that time is not on their side. Yet he slowly and in meticulous detail proceeds to take us through a flashback. There are one or two instances of violence – a girl is thrown from a window and a wife cuts her husband's wrist – but they are shoved in to remind you that what you are witnessing is cruel and barbaric. And don't get me started on the who-is-behind-it-all twist. It's unpredictable because it's absurd, as you don't see how the person could have communicated with the bomber (or Manoj) in such a setting without raising even a slight suspicion on their identity. If Collar Bomb were a person, it would have been fitted with a bomb that would diffuse after completing a series of activities. But the person would have failed at these tasks and the bomb would have exploded disastrously.