Cast: Imran Khan, Shruti Hasaan
Direction: Soham Shah
The film is in black and white. The interiors are dingy. The world is brewed for pure, mind-suck. A young man with little to lose follows instructions meant for someone else. He doesn’t know where the suggested journey will take him. He also doesn’t know a cop’s been trailing him, as he buries himself deeper into chaos. The beginning is sedate. By the end, everything turns into a chilling thriller.
The film is called 13 Tzameti. Unusually for a French movie, Gela Babluani’s crackling dra-ma opened at select Indian theatres a couple of years back. No one may have heard of it.
The makers of this film certainly saw it. They picked up the premise, without caring much for the purpose of that picture, or why it had worked in the first place. The suspense was in the storytelling. Like the hero, we had no clue until very late, that he is being led into a den where people gamble on other people’s lives (or deaths): a stock exchange of psychos, as it were.
A group assembles into a circle. Each has a gun with a missing bullet. They pull the trigger at the next person. The pistol could fire off, or miss, depending on luck. Clients place bets. This pithy idea is made even more macabre for its dark setting.
Here, the entire mystery is cooked and served on a plate. Some are hand-picked for a game of chance, where the odds are against them, and could cost them their life. They have but a life-time’s earnings to make, if they make it through. Each, it empirically appears, has luck on their side. This was the criterion for selection: young stock-market broker (Imran Khan; seeming deeply uncomfortable), sleepy bikini (Shruti Hassan; in a daze), former Army-man (Mithun Chakraborty), jailed rapist (Ravi Kissen), teenaged kid... Sanjay Dutt, needless to add, is the don, the Musa Bhai.
Instead of grabbing us by the balls, with a borrowed concept, the filmmakers attempt to engage us with emotions behind the half-baked characters. They appear most interested in the screen-time for each actor. Everyone gets a long say.
All’s well, cheery and slick. The travelogue, I presume, is presented to us by the South African tourism board. You won’t care who might die, or what sort of soup they’ve gotten themselves into. The soup has lots of masala, for certain. Things just blow up. Nothing blows your mind.
From playing ‘rounders with bullets’, we move on to other episodes like ‘lock and key with sharks’, ‘suspended parachutes that don’t open’.
I suspect the bosses here argued, reality TV is the flavour of the season. Let’s plant them on the big screen. Bring it on. Go for it. Just wishing you all the luck.