Sunday, April 08, 2018

Blackmail (2018) a bad movie made with good intentions


Perhaps, bad movies are good because you try to unravel the mystery of why the movie was bad. You are trying to find out reasons. And a bad movie sometimes reminds you of other bad movies you have seen. So when I saw Abhinay Deo-directed Blackmail at Rivoli in a crowded upper stall -- the lower stalls were empty --it reminded immediately of two other bad movies -- Juari of 1968 starring Shashi Kapoor, Tanuja, Madhavi, Nanda and directed by Suraj Prakash, who had also made the successful Jab, Jab Phool Khile starring Shashi Kapoor and Nanda in 1965 and Joel and Ethan Coen's Burn After Reading (2008). Of course, there are some mindless admirers of Coen brothers' movies and they would be offended immensely if I were to class Burn After Reading along with Blackmail as a mindless movie. The reason I lump these movies together is because there seems to be a lot happening in them and each scene makes sense in itself though it does not connect with the other scenes. Each scene promises that the film could turn out to be a good one but the other scene which passes muster in itself again raises hope and so all the hopes raised by each of the scenes is left hanging in the air.  It could be argued that this kind of a splintered movie experience offers an aesthetic pleasure of its own. It really does not however much one tries to do it.
Abhinay Deo, son of veteran character actor Ramesh Deo, has been praised by the cognoscenti for his Delhi Belly (2011), which I did not see and which I think I would not have liked if I had seen it, promises a dark, intense and complicated movie in Blackmail and fails to deliver on the promise. Something like that other much talked-about Iranian movie, Asghar Farhadi's The Salesman (2016).which was bad. Blackmail disappoints because it had competent players in Irrfan Khan, Divya Dutta and Kirti Kulhari but their roles are reduced to those of caricatures, lacking in dignity and meaning. Deo's tries to turn Blackmail into a black farce and it does not work. He seems to have been carried away by the cleverness of the plot and loses the plot of good film-making, which needs a good story, that is with a story that has a credible sequence, and characters which provoke curiosity as well as respect. The characters in a movie cannot be treated as pawns or props to be moved around at the director's whim and pleasure even as the director is absorbed in the maze of the plot. It is a good thing that Abhinay Deo took the risk of making Blackmail into a bad movie because he was experimenting with idea and plot.

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