Movie Review: Nirdosh

I liked this film more when it was directed by Abhay Chopra, came out in 2017, starred Akshaye Khanna, Siddharth Malhotra and Sonakshi Sinha and was called Ittefaq.

Directed by the duo of Subroto Paul (not the football player) and Pradeep Rangwani, Nirdosh follows police inspector Lokhande (Arbaaz Khan) as he tries to solve a murder mystery which seemingly has only one suspect, Shinaya Grover (Manjari Phadnis). As his brand of investigation gets underway, a few more suspects come out of the woodwork that puts his skills to the test. Lokhande and his team have three days to either find the killer or prove Shinaya’s guilt before the latter is exonerated in the court of law. The investigation and the many versions of the actual events narrated by the witnesses and suspects form the rest of the film.

The simple reason as to why Nirdosh is not as good as Ittefaq can be traced back to what the lead investigator’s name signifies to the story on a whole. Where Akshaye Khanna’s Dev was named as such because he played judge, jury, executioner and moral centre in his story, Arbaaz Khan’s Lokhande is named as such just to facilitate a cheap punchline which goes like this “Jo police ki dande se seedhe nahi hote, usko Lokhande seede karta hai”.

The gulf in class is both painful and palpable.

The above example serves as a reminder as to how Nirdosh takes many clever ideas, pulls the clever right of them and replaces them with voluptuous babes, exploitative scenes, a general lack of tension, adultery, blackmail, sex tapes, political jargon and so much more. What needed to be a tight, taut, intelligent thriller slowly morphs into an over two-hour episode of CID.

Rest assured, I don’t compare films to CID lightly. This film warrants said comparison for a myriad of reasons. Arbaaz Khan’s Inspector Lokhande states the obvious, uses his fists before his brains and has a bevvy of poorly written one-liners like ACP Pradyumna. The film rarely allows Khan to explore his range as an actor and instead chooses to have him talk with a the look of Frankenstein’s monster on his face and an equally as flat monotone to boot.

If the star the film is resting on has no hope of being a full-fledged character, his team of cops gets little in terms of scraps to feed on. Lokhande comes with a female Daya who doesn’t break doors and a male Abhijeet who is so bone-headed that he is primarily used to spin his baton around and beat criminals to a pulp with his patented bone-head. The fact is neither of them is either funny or in any way memorable.

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Trying hard to infuse any semblance of drama into the film is Manjari Phadnis. She seems to be the only one who gives a damn among a sea of actors who knows this film and its story are well below their pay grade. Phadnis’ performance might border on overacting from time to time but her professionalism is one to be commended.

Her civilian co-stars Ashmit Patel who plays Shinaya’s husband Gautam Grover and Mahek Chahal who plays paying guest Adah are woefully underprepared to match what Phadnis is bringing to the table and are hence exposed in every scene they share. Both of them are square pegs the director tries to fit into round holes which mirror the costume designer’s choice to fit Mahek into dresses that are clearly a size or two lower than what she should actually be wearing.

The cast of characters doesn’t end here. There is a watchman, an apartment secretary, a lift operator, Mukul Dev’s Rana, his wife, her brother and their maid whose only purpose seems to be to hoodwink the audience into thinking that the film is cleverer than it actually is. In its dying embers, the film attempts to take a page out of The Prestige’s book by showing the audience that the correct answers were there all along while patting itself on the back thinking it successfully diverted their attention from the actual culprit.

The problem is, like many in the audience, this is not my first thriller/mystery. The film’s characters may be dumbfounded by the events unfolding in front of them but many in my theatre were not.

The film does not have a great score/soundtrack or an eye-grabbing visual style about it to distract the audience from its plot-hole filled mediocre storytelling. Its song choreography is reminiscent of Emraan Hashmi’s heyday where a song primarily consisted of shoulder kissing and PG-13 nudity. The film’s story and presentation reek of functionality in place of originality, just like CID. But unlike CID, the film does not have a sense of humour about its many flaws.

With so many moving parts, the writers tangle themselves in plot threads until they have only way out of the mess that is of their own doing. In their desperation, they resort to the age-old narrative device of having an omniscient main character. But, this reveal begs the question, “Why does he need to investigate the said murder and be surprised by every new development when he knew the answers all along??”

When a film fails to justify its own existence, you know it’s in trouble.

One and Half Stars

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