Cast: Javed Jaffrey, Nandana Sen, Ankur Vikral, man-eating leopard
Directed by Ashvin Kumar
A thriller can be measured for its ability to make you predict multiple outcomes. And like horror, the extent of fear and thrill that it evokes is always limited only to one’s imagination. Here, the object of our collective fear is one of the fastest man-eating cats ever- a leopard. With that knowledge, now the number of times you get to see the spotted cat will dictate the importance you assign to it. If it appears too often, you won’t care to be scared. If it appears marginally, you would be tastefully terrified and longing for more. Luckily for director Ashvin Kumar, his man-devouring billi makes a cameo and does evoke just about enough fear to sail this low-budget thriller.
The story is about a complicated couple – Pritam (Ankur Vikal) and Radha (Nandana Sen) who decide to join the birds, bees and uneducated flees in the wilderness to rekindle their failing relationship. For their ‘jungle mein mangal’ , they pick the very same forest range where Radha’s estranged lover Abhishek (Javed Jaffrey) has confined himself to as a forest ranger along with his awkward and annoying son. We’re led into a series of scenes which lead to nowhere as Abhishek takes it upon himself to be the couple’s forest guide. Soon, a prank played on Pritam takes a nasty turn, Abhishek gets lucky with his old flame and the jungle cat turns ‘aadamkhor’ (maneater). Too much to too quickly? Perhaps the budget forced this snappy wrap up.
While the leopard’s presence in the film is fractional, the little we do see of him seems like an illusion as he is unusually illuminated. The creature almost reminds you of the ‘Glo Friends’ only this one was supposed to terrify you. Also since the film is partly in English and Hindi, it leaves a very odd aftertaste. The scene begins with a colonial monologue by Javed Jaffrey and is concluded by his son’s colloquial rural Hindi. A bit like dipping a strudel in cutting chai or not? But unlike most Bollywood films, the English dialogues aren’t spoken like they are in a school play where lines are rattled out with a blank face and the objective of just completing them without pauses.
Ankur Vikal has come a long way from his short stint in ‘Slumdog Millionaire’ and is convincing as a fruity socialite who wants to connect with nature, his wife and well anyone who is willing to indulge him. Nandana Sen attempts a sultry seductress cum superhumanly hormonal housewife and just about manages her part uncomfortably. Javed Jaffrey is unobjectionable. His cool and composed self gives away to a frantic lunatic when the scene demands it but his overall performance doesn’t elevate the film in any way.
The biggest downer and perhaps one of the reasons why this film will be a ‘blink and a miss’ for most is the depressingly mediocre level of VFX. And while most films don’t need super slick post production values to be acknowledged for their merit, a film like this can’t do without it. This is evident from the few shots that feature the leopard along with a human being. The shots look like they’ve been stitched together by a tailor who isn’t exactly an expert in the art of ‘rafus’.
This one could’ve cashed-in on the fact that there haven’t been many thrillers based on man-eaters in recent times. But unfortunately, it only goes to prove why we haven’t had many in recent times. A snore for every roar here!
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