Characters in heist films tend to follow a simple rule. Take your share and part ways. Now, imagine the unlikely scenario where Daniel Ocean’s partners decide to entrust him with the entire money. And Danny, well, simply forgets where he put it.
Why would such a stupid arrangement exist? Raj Kumar Gupta’s Ghanchakkar steers clear of such logical questions. But then, Gupta (he of the critically acclaimed Aamir and No One Killed Jessica) has set out to make an absurd comedy. And to that end, his characters are less slick, witty heist artists, and more akin to the nutty trio that dreams of a career in crime in Wes Anderson’s ‘Bottle Rocket’. At least, that seems to have been the idea.
Master safe-breaker Sanjay Atre (Emraan Hashmi) wants out of the game. He’s reconciled himself to a humdrum life of TV, late dinners and wife Neetu’s (Vidya Balan) bad cooking. But when the chance of a handsome job comes along, he takes it. Things take a turn for the bizarre when the two partners (played by Rajesh Sharma and Namit Das) return to claim their money, only to find Sanjay suffering from amnesia.
Thankfully, we’re spared clichés like Main kaun hoon… followed by a blow to the head to reboot the memory. However, the script is overloaded with forced jokes and unfunny, crass scenes like grown men running around in underwear. Yet, there are quirky visual moments. During the heist, clever camera angles make expressions on the robbers’ paper masks — a smiling Dharmendra, a smug Amitabh Bachchan and a harrowed Utpal Dutt — look real and ridiculously out of place.
Hashmi’s usual acting style borders on deadpan. Somehow, it works here, as Sanjay seems (or pretends) to look lost as his memory slips away. However, Balan’s character — the shrill, garish-dressing, magazine-devouring Punjabi housewife — is caricature-ish.
Gupta deserves points for attempting an absurd Bollywood film. Ghanchakkar, unfortunately, relies on the age-old Bollywood idea of the fading yaaddasht, and leaves you feeling as lost as its characters. The hunt — for money as much as for memory — moves with a chaotic frenzy. But it goes around in circles till it drops. Now, where were we?