Direction: Vishesh Bhatt
Actors: Randeep Hooda, Aditi Rao Hydari
Over the last ten years, the brothers Bhatt - Mahesh and Mukesh - have perfected the art of the high-concept, low-budget franchise. Think Jannat, Raaz and, of course, Murder. Like the other franchises, the Murder movies have nothing to do with each other in terms of story or character. But they all offer a similar cocktail of suspense, moral ambiguity and erotica. Unlike the first two films, which were brazen copies, Murder 3 is the official remake of a Spanish film titled La Cara Oculta (or The Hidden Face). I haven't seen it but this Indianised version is fearlessly foolish.
At its heart, Murder 3 is about the staggering sex appeal of Vikram, played by Randeep Hooda, a hotshot photographer who goes, without any struggle from shooting wildlife in South Africa to fashion models in Mumbai. There isn't a woman in this film who can resist his charms. Surprisingly, none are put off by the awkward hairdo. So Vikram has a girlfriend, Roshni played by Aditi Rao Hydari, who is so besotted with him that she abandons her flourishing career as an architect in South Africa and moves to Mumbai. Then, she disappears. Almost instantly, Vikram finds solace in the arms of a kindly lounge waitress, Nisha, who moves into his palatial but creepy house. Here taps make strange sounds and showers become scalding hot without warning. But, of course, Nisha, played by Sara Loren, isn't fazed by any of this. Did I mention there's also a sexy hairdresser who occasionally shares wine with Vikram in his vanity van?
This twisty triangle goes from interestingly outlandish to flat-out silly. And the lame acting doesn't help. Even the normally reliable Hooda sulks through the film. At one point, Vikram glares at Nisha and grimly declares: "I don't like surprises". I laughed out loud. Murder 3 picks up steam in the second half. Debutant director Vishesh Bhatt creates a palpable sense of claustrophobia and panic but the story is so silly that you can't take it seriously. Aditi struggles to bring conviction to her character's strange situation. Loren's main task is to maintain her blowfish lips and show ample skin, which she manages admirably. With a little more imagination, Murder 3 could have been deliciously dark. I'm pinning my hopes on Murder 4.