A lion, a witch and a wardrobe
Direction: Vishal Mahadkar
Actors: Kunal Khemu, Amrita Puri
At one point in Blood Money, the nasty boss of a diamond company gifts his protégé, Kunal, an expansive new office and a buxom secretary, with the instruction: Cabin aur Pauline, dono ka maza lo. It was my favourite of many unintentionally hilarious moments in the film.
Blood Money, like a few other Vishesh films (the Mahesh and Mukesh Bhatt banner) before it, notably the match-fixing saga Jannat, is a morality tale about the dangers of conspicuous consumption. Kunal, played by Kunal Khemu, is a middle-class MBA student who gets a job at the Trinity Diamond Company in Cape Town. We are told that it's the first time he's been on an airplane.
The company boss and his brother don't have much time to chat with him, but the newbie is given a furnished mansion to live in and cash to spend. Cut to: shopping, sightseeing and snazzy new car. Only his wife, Arzoo, played by Amrita Puri, wonders why the house reminds her of the Hansel and Gretel fairy tale, in which the nice old woman turns out to be a witch.
'Witch' is an understatement for Kunal's boss, 'Zaveri Sir,' played by Manish Chaudhari, who is involved in all sorts of nefarious activities and is introduced to us as he drills a hole into his executive's leg. This is the first scene of the film, so I'm not spoiling any mystery here. After Kunal clinches a big deal, Zaveri Sir takes him under his wing, which means a life of pool parties, private planes and a tryst on the conference room table with a sexy co-worker. Of course, Kunal soon finds out that he has made a deal with the devil or, as he so originally puts it at interval point, "I sold my soul."
This standard issue plot worked far better in Jannat because the protagonist was edgier and the backdrop of match-fixing more intriguing. The world of blood diamonds, as created by debutant director Vishal S Mahadkar here, is largely comic-book. The screenplay is bogged down by songs and the couple's love story, which of course takes a beating once Kunal starts to party with the boss. Kunal Khemu works hard to make his character's dangerous dilemma real but the situations he is put in are ludicrous. In the climax, he sprints through Cape Town with a profusely bleeding stab wound and beats up some burly men for good measure. Funnier still are the villains. Zaveri Sir wears long coats, chomps on cigars and likes to say "superb" with a cruel curl of his lips, while his brother, played by Sandip Sikand, looks comically angry the whole time. Zaveri Sir is also fond of pronouncements such as "Imaandari aadmi ko mahal mein nahin, footpath pe le jaati hai."
Blood Money finds some traction in the climax but it's too little, too late. By then, you are disengaged and debating dinner choices.