January 25, 2017
Cast: Hrithik Roshan, Yami Gautam, Rohit Roy, Ronit Roy, Girish Kulkarni, Narendra Jha, Suresh Menon
Director: Sanjay Gupta
How do you not root for Hrithik Roshan in director Sanjay Gupta’s Kaabil? He plays a visually impaired young man who systematically plots revenge on those who brutally violated his blind wife. It’s an author-backed role for the actor, and he puts in a committed performance. But the film is weighed down by its many contrivances.
Chief among those is the glaring dichotomy at its core. Gupta gives us protagonists that refuse to be pitied because of their disability. They have jobs, they’re independent, and they’re seeking companionship and happiness. They may be blind, but they aren’t becharas. It’s a refreshing upgrade from the old cliché where handicapped was usually shorthand for helpless in the movies. But then the script places these characters in a landscape straight out of 80s Bollywood; one that’s dominated by smutty eve-teasers, nostril-flaring, teeth-gnashing political baddies, and corrupt cops who’re on the payroll of the villain. This is the kind of film that plays out at deserted warehouses and under-construction building sites, and whose characters don’t deliver dialogues but punchlines. It’s all so outdated, you can’t help but groan.
The plot sees Hrithik’s character Rohan Bhatnagar and Supriya (Yami Gautam) fall in love and tie the knot shortly after they are set up on a date. The script doesn’t bother with any back-story for how they became blind, or why neither has any family in their lives. But I’m nitpicking.
If you’ve watched the film’s trailer, you know what happens next. I’ll spare you the details, except to say that a barbaric incident shatters the happy life the couple has made together, and Rohan sets out to deliver payback to the perpetrators, namely the neighborhood bad apple (Rohit Roy) and his corporator brother (Ronit Roy), who are protected by a pair of thuggish cops (Girish Kulkarni and Narendra Jha).
There are some smart surprises in the manner that Gupta executes Rohan’s elaborate revenge plan and shrewd twists built around seemingly innocuous clues. But the novelty wears off when the same tricks are employed over and over again. Plus the film is ridden with plot holes the size of craters.
Some of these might have been easy to overlook if the film had anything new to offer. But Kaabil is a B-movie from the 80s with neither subtext nor nuance. Yami Gautam has a nice presence, but Ronit and Rohit Roy are characters plucked straight out of the Handbook of Bollywood Cliches. The film then is redeemed – to some degree – by the sincerity and the conviction of its leading man. Hrithik makes you care, and keeps you invested in his pain. Even when the film becomes increasingly violent and practically implausible, his commitment doesn’t waver.
He is the sole reason Kaabil doesn’t completely derail, and frankly the only reason to give the film a chance. I’m going with two-and-a-half out of five.
(This review first aired on CNN News18)