Kaabil **Dir: Sanjay Gupta. With: Hrithik Roshan, Yami Gautam, Ronit Roy, Rohit Roy. 139 mins. Cert: 15
Set against the prospect of Shah Rukh Khan playing mobster in this weekend’s other major Hindi release Raees, this teeth-grinding, mouth-foaming melodrama is destined to appear Bollywood trad, proceeding from the kind of innately preposterous premise someone might have tried to get away with twenty years ago. Here – no word of a lie – is the story of a blind dubbing artist (honey-eyed pin-up Hrithik Roshan) who embarks upon a kill-crazy rampage after his equally sightless beloved is driven to self-sacrifice by well-connected thugs. It’s not good, exactly, but I can’t say it’s not watchable on some far-out level.
Sanjay Gupta, the crime specialist who directed the Hindi redo of Reservoir Dogs (2002’s Kaante), eventually embraces the full absurdity of this set-up. Yes, our hero will use his voice-throwing skills to wrongfoot his nemeses, and yes, somebody points out how “eye for an eye” might mean something else to the visually impaired. Elsewhere, he’s having an off day: a disastrous first act bottoms out with a beyond-kitsch wedding night sequence (“I can’t see, but I can feel”), and the sappiness trickles into the vendetta business, as dreamboat Hrithik fumbles for wifey’s ghost between slayings. Several punches land not with thuds, but damp splats.
Stumbling around during their, let’s say, uniquely choreographed dance numbers, the leads at least make a handsome couple – more handsome than the film, with its flimsy-looking rear projection and smeary digital inserts. Yet Yami Gautam has only to play damsel in extreme distress, and Gupta’s glib touting of rape as plot point impedes any guilty pleasure. Holding his own in the final, ludicrous smackdown atop a half-completed skyscraper, his billowing bouffant more than ever resembling a tribute to “Faith”-era George Michael, Roshan doesn’t look to have aged a day since the millennium. It’s the industry that’s moved on, that’s all.
Kaabil opens in cinemas nationwide today.