Director: Abhinay Deo
Cast: Irrfan Khan, Kirti Kulhari, Arunoday Singh, Divya Dutta, Pradhuman Singh, Anuja Sathe, Gajraj Rao
Abhinay Deo’s Delhi Belly had an unusually intriguing flavor, but Blackmail is no Delhi Belly, it’s at best a half-cooked meal over-crowded with too many unnecessary ingredients. Reports suggest that Deo’s dark tragicomedy was initially titled Raita and going by how the film turns out, the makers should have stuck to that name.
Irrfan plays Dev, a Sales employee working in a toilet paper company My Handy, who sticks around in the office after wee hours. He steals photographs of his colleagues’ wives from their desk and secretly rushes to the bathroom to pleasure himself. Right in the beginning, we see him texting his wife “Leaving now” following a trail of same texts only with a changing date on his phone. It’s an indication of where their dry and possibly dusty marriage is heading. On the insistence of his colleague Anand (Pradhuman Singh), he decides to surprise his wife Reena (Kirit Kulhari) with a bouquet of flowers. Just that he couldn’t find them anywhere but at a crematorium. He returns home only to find her seeking solace in the arms of another man Ranjit Arora (Arunoday Singh).
Perplexed at the situation, he plays several threatening, bloodied scenarios in his mind but being the man that he is, he decides to formulate a plan of revenge. Soon enough we find Ranjit to be a married man living off of his wife Dolly’s (Divya Dutta) money. Or rather, her ill-mouthed father’s money.
Dev begins to blackmail the boyfriend- one act turns into a trail, and one blackmailer gives birth to many more. His company is being headed by a foreign returned toilet paper-obsessed man Boss DK (Omi Vaidya) who rages war only against two things- jet sprayers and a man who continuously steals his wife’s photographs from his cabin. In his office is another sexist man Anand (Pradhuman Singh), who has a knack for making “non-veg” jokes and predicting a girl’s virginity only by taking one look at her. Joining them is Prabha (Anuja Sathe), a beautiful soft-spoken girl, who knows how to twist situations to her advantage. But as they say, too many cooks spoil the broth.
Irrfan, however, makes you bear the twisty-turny narrative with his mighty performance. He underplays and improvises as per his character demands and pulls off a devil-masked as an innocent impressively. While Kirti doesn’t have much to do in the film, Arunoday and Divya Dutta, bring the required over-the-top energy to their meatier roles. The likes of Pradhuman Singh, Anuja Sathe, Gajraj Rao also do justice to their parts.
The film has an overdose of revenge and greed sagas along with “dark” characters. And while one might credit the makers for shining a spotlight on every human’s inner villain and all things black, it all seems in vain as the film feels overindulgent at the running time of 139 minutes. The dark edges are finely crafted and the conversational humor emerges sporadically but a lot of it falls short in weaving an interesting film as a whole.
Some scenes, however, make you laugh at others’ despair and that’s when the mark of Deo becomes apparent and writer Parveez Shaikh's work comes alive. The plot fails to unfold in a coherent fashion and leaves scope for a lot of distraction and watch-gazing moments and the second half feels stretched. Given the course the film takes, a little less running time would have come as a sigh of relief.
One of the film’s major strengths is its cinematography. Jay Oza’s visionary work in the film is commendable and adds layers to certain scenes- whether the hole-peeping scenes or a terrace corner scene. The performances, especially that of Irrfan, make the film bearable. A few dark scenes which have an underlying indication of a human’s greed and the functioning of a human mind also fare well. Urmila Matondkar’s “item-number” Bewafa Beauty is unnecessary and doesn’t add any lavage to the film.
At one point in the film, Anand asks Dev “Plan kya hai?”, to which Dev responds, “Abhi ban raha” and sums up the film for us.