What could have been a great thriller is let down by some excess baggage typical of today’s masala films. Bollywood – bring in script editors!
By Shai Hussain
Kaabil tells the story of Rohan (Hrithik Roshan), a blind man whose life is shaken when his wife Supriya (Yami Gautam) is raped and the justice system fails them. Desperate for vengeance, he then takes justice into his own hands.
Directed by Sanjay Gupta, whose previous films Aatish, Kaante and Zinda almost completely plagiarised John Woo’s A Better Tomorrow, Quentin Tarantino’s Reservoir Dogs and Park Chan-Wook’s Oldboy respectively, the common cinephile is always wary of how much of his films are ‘inspired’ by international cult classics. Lucky for him, not many Bollywood fans enjoy films that require subtitles (or in Tarantino’s case, patience) so it’s easy to escape these comparisons. Nonetheless, if you’re going to copy from anyone, why not steal from the masters?
For Kaabil, it seems that Gupta hasn’t gone for a full-on robbery, but has taken elements from South Korean’s 2014 film Broken and seems to be trailing the zeitgeist of Marvel’s Netflix series Daredevil. Thankfully, the hero doesn’t go fully down the superhero route, and the device the film uses for Rohan to act his vengeance must be applauded (given it’s not a copy), in addition to the final twist (given it’s not a copy). Sorry. It’s just so difficult to trust Gupta with originality with his track record.
Regardless of trademark wobbly-face when the action scenes come, Hrithik does a great job in channeling the emotion and empathy that Rohan carries when faced with seemingly impossible dilemmas. Yami likewise is adorable as the independent blind girl whose heart he catches and you really believe in the love they feel for one another.
It's good seeing the depiction of two disabled characters comfortably living independently through life, even if the dance scenes seem a little far-fetched. However, up until the point that tragedy strikes – which feels like 45 minutes into the film – it’s a pretty bland romance with very few stakes and an unnecessary journey. With some good editing, this could have been summed up in 15 minutes, but Bollywood obviously needs a love story.
Strike 2 comes in the sense of the one-dimensional baddies, who show no redeemable features at all, and feel like they’ve been cut straight out of an 80s flick. The corrupt police, the nasty politicians, the bad guy in the tight shirt with Ganpathi going on in the background – so far so cliché.
Strike 3 – and this is one of the greatest sins of the film, even if it does only last 5 minutes – is it’s dreadful, and I mean the worst remake of a Bollywood song ever. Saara Zamaana is literally crucified as an item number that comes completely out of leftfield with item girl choregraphy that literally directs you towards what lady-parts you should be focusing on. Vulgarity at its finest.
Barring spoilers, there’s also an act of vengeance that Rohan takes which feels a bit uncalled for where an innocent bystander gets used and attacked, when the audience may question whether he’s really the hero we should be routing for. With exception to this however, we’re with him all the way. One thing that Gupta does fantastically well are the action scenes. With Rohan’s blindness being an obvious weakness, it’s exhilarating to see how he uses his other senses and abilities as his strengths. They’re not easy battles he faces either, and each time we’re not really sure how he’s going to get out of each scrap alive.
So yes. Despite some annoying, unnecessary lapses to mistakes typical of Bollywood appeasing to the mass audiences, overall it’s an entertaining escape worth a watch. But it really could have been something amazing.