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Darkness extorted.

LAHORE:It is almost impossible for there to be a truly bad Irrfan Khan movie. If nothing else, it would have around two hours of Irrfan, with the actor inevitably being the glue that keeps it all together.

If you give Irrfan half-decent writing, and even a remotely functional script, then you're really talking. But if you up the ante on those fronts, with him in the lead, the synthesised universe might be too small for both to coexist.

That is what almost happens to Blackmail before it - deliberately or inadvertently - decides to put Irrfan on the front, in part compromising on the writing.

Theoretically, a black comedy and Irrfan Khan should be a match made in heaven. It is the very antithesis of slapstick, which eats up everything that he puts on the table.

Kirti Kulhari

However, for a dark comedy to truly function it can't be over reliant on the individual leading the lines. And hence, Blackmail drops a notch from being an absolute gem, to one that no one with an interest in comedy should miss out on.

Dev (Irrfan Khan), your quintessential white-collar middleclass man, is shocked to see his wife Reena (Kirti Kulhari) in bed with her lover Ranjit (Arunoday Singh), while having intended to surprise her by coming home early.

Ranjit, in turn, is cheating on his wife Dolly (Divya Dutta), which prompts Dev to do the most middleclass of middleclass things by putting his outraged sentiments to a side, and viewing the situation as an opportunity to address his financial woes by blackmailing the lover of his wife.

Even though Blackmail isn't as audacious as Delhi Belly, it is no less unique - bringing out a brand of humour that Bollywood isn't accustomed to, and is still developing a taste for

What this instigates is a repetitive domino chain of blackmail, with blackmailers becoming the blackmailed, and the cycle repeating itself, with the money in turn changing hands.

As is evident here, the storyline incorporates elements of both dark humour and farce. However, Blackmail doesn't quite pull off its farcical elements, relying almost entirely on extorting darkness from the script - which it successfully manages to do.

The writing repertoire of Parveez Sheikh - who has also penned the scripts for Queen and Bajrangi Bhaijaan - is on display for most of the film, but it is evident that punches have been pulled to compromise abstraction of darkness, making way for the commercial needs.

The film stars Irrfan Khan

And it is evident that Abhinay Deo is making those shots, having stormed to the scene with his directorial debut Delhi Belly. In the seven years since, however, he has been hit and miss - more the latter - but has now reaffirmed that the 2011 cult classic wasn't a fluke, and the director does know his way around black comedy, if not much else.

Even so, where Delhi Belly's strength was its take-it-or-leave-it consistency, and the fact that it didn't rely on individuals, Blackmail sets out to achieve its commercial goals, making it a significantly less risky venture - as epitomised by the Urmila Matondkar cameo in the item number Bewafa Beauty.

Divya Dutta in Blackmail

But even though Blackmail isn't as audacious as Delhi Belly, it is no less unique, bringing out a brand of humour that Bollywood isn't accustomed to, and is still developing a taste for.

The soundtrack - that can easily perturb the purists of the genre - of Amit Trivedi is pretty decent as well, and gels with the scenes that go with it.

But, again, it is Irrfan Khan that is the dominant force in the film, making it a must-watch for both his fans and those of the genre. However, the supporting cast has done well in roles that had various challenging aspects, with Divya Dutta and Anuja Sathe, especially noteworthy.

Blackmail is both fun and eccentric, with sufficient degrees of darkness to make it absolutely enjoyable. But the buffs will notice the degrees that it missed out on.
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Publication:Friday Times of Pakistan (Lahore, Pakistan)
Date:May 5, 2018
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