After Delhi Belly, Abhinay Deo is back with a more powerful cast to thrust us again into the world of black comedy where morals are questionable and self-interest runs supreme. Irrfan Khan is the quintessential middle-aged Indian who fears confrontation and has his own secret outlets for venting out his repressed guts. He is faced with the not-so-unique situation when he voyeuristically discovers his wife being intimate with another man. His solution to the problem is a bit unique, which is itself and also the pivot of Blackmail.
Blackmail has a very promising storyline, written by Parveez Sheikh (of Queen and BajrangiBhaijaan fame), that folds in a labyrinth of blackmails. As the dominoes fall apart eventually, we are treated to a smog of confusion, drama and ‘do kaudikapyaar’. The toilet salesman, Dev (Irfan Khan) is believable and even though you see him descend into lunacy, you still root for the underdog in him. His wife (Kriti Kulkarni) and her lover, Ranjit (Arunoday Singh) have their own problems when a mysterious blackmailer comes after them. But there are other goons waiting to cash in on the business opportunity and thus unfolds pandemonium and brouhaha with no signs of a moral epiphany of a positive note. Blackmail stays black, all the way and it works!
Screenplay and Direction
We knew Abhinay Deo would keep it tight and the screenplay also didn’t disappoint in that. The deadpan-laden situations give away to the more intricate moments and the more intricate moments quickly escalate into hilarious chase scenes. We would have liked the writing to capture the climaxes better and to keep the hysteria under some control. But perhaps the lack of it is what works for Blackmail.Abhinay Deo is very much on his way to mastering the black comedy genre and even though there are cracks here and there, it is still a lot of fun.
Performances and Dialogue
Blackmail bears that indie vibe which is why we went in with sky-high expectations from the acting department. The only problem with the performance is the screen time distribution. While Irfan definitely pulls his weight (and more), we would have liked to see Divya Dutta or Omi Vaidya (Chatur from 3 Idiots!) get a better chance to shine. Kirti Kulhari keeps it real and Arunoday is believable as all hunk and no brains chocolate boy. Anuja Sathe is surprisingly delightful and her bite is very much the nemesis of the demure Dev. The dialogue department doesn’t offer many avenues to complain about, with the wry, edgy style of Delhi Belly maintained and well adapted. Our favorite ones is still the one from the trailer. “Yai Sirf Ek Lac Manga Hai… Ek Lac Hai Tere Pass… Nahe… Sirf Ek Lac Kaisai Hogaya”.
Amit Trivedi was the obvious choice for Blackmail. He gets the edgy stuff that comes with black comedy scripts and we get that he gets it. From the song ‘Satasat’ (Amit Trivedi) to the opening track, ‘Happy Happy (Badshah and Aastha Gill)’ to the rap, Badla (rendered masterfully by Divine), the music blends into the dark comedy of errors and augments every scene beautifully. The background score keeps up as well and we are a treatment to a soundscape of fast-paced quirky electronica and hip hop with the occasional Trivedi-c rock.
Blackmail is a movie that minces no words about what it wants to do. The brand of comedy presented here is not for everyone and certainly for the straight-thinkers who would be jolted at the perplexing mind angles the movie plays on. We imagined the plot to be unfolding like the strands of a treacherous but tantalizing web. But the plot totters off drunkenly to one side now and to another side then and we cannot let that go in the name of edgy filmmaking. Blackmail is still a great entertainer with a powerful leading man and a talented supporting cast who put on their best faces (even if it’s made of cardboard) to blackmail away to glory.