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Upperstall Review

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Karthik Calling Karthik

 

Hindi, Thriller, 2010, Color



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Karthik (Farhan Akhtar) is an introvert. His boss treats him as dirt. His colleague, Shonali (Deepika Padukone), whom he loves secretly, doesn't even know he exists. Just when Karthik believes his life can't get any worse, he gets a phone call. The man at the other end also claims to be Karthik and says he is there to change Karthik's life...



Karthik Calling Karthik (KCK), as a film, suffers from the affliction that haunts its main character... something's not right. Like Karthik, there seems to be a hidden doppelganger of the director because the first half is incongruous to the second. Is the same man who helms the first hour - replete with inconsistencies, clumsy direction, in your face continuity jerks, non-editing, and all the mistakes an amateur first-timer hopes to avoid - also the man behind the seamless second half that lifts the film with its genuine 'thriller' moments, a complete unburdening with fresh locations, and crisp visuals that tell the story more than does dialogue? Hopefully yes, probably no, not with Farhan Akhtar in the lead anyway.

The first half opens with a shot first seen in Gladiator (a hand caressing stalks in a golden field), subsequently ripped by the likes of Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra in RDB and many other films. Straightaway you ready yourself for a me-too movie experience and Lalwani doesn't disappoint. Fashioning itself after a typical psychological thriller from the Hollywood 'B' line-up, the film plods through cliches galore until the interval.

And then something happens. It lifts itself from the mires of been-there-done-that and the action shifts with some original writing and an even more (relatively speaking) daring settings. There are some remarkable moments - Deepika and Farhan waiting for the phone to ring at 5 am - and it does - along with the doorbell ringing simultaneously is quite memorable and exciting (though a bit of a cop out eventually), so the entire train journey and settling into the new town sequence is a unique (but unrealistic) idea, and the sentimental highpoint in the movie with Karthik shares his 'drafts' mailbox contents with Shonali, moving her to tears.

The only elements in the first half that keep its head bobbing just over the water are the songs. Both, Heya and Uff Teri Ada wash over you like a wave of relief as you watch ravishing Deepika doing what she's best at - dancing, looking good, and not delivering dialogue. The music is catchy no doubt and will be a key driver for people to watch the film. But must we be subject to YET another forced sequence in a discotheque? Think screenwriters, think! Surely there are other places where a hip, urban, couple could shake a leg to dance-y music?

Eventually the film meanders to its shockingly obvious and deeply unsatisfying end that will make anyone who has seen more than 10 films hit their foreheads with their palms and exclaim "I can't believe that's the explanation!" It is surprising and not in a Sixth Sense kind of way that you're secretly hoping it is. If you've seen even a shard of the promos, your first guess of how it might turn out is probably right. A sort of reverse whammy: bet you weren't expecting the obvious, but it is.

As is, unfortunately, with psychological thrillers the script is secondary. The dialogue is functional and constantly translating the same lines from Hindi to English or vice-versa. "Where are you?"/"Tum kahan ho?", "Are you okay?"/"Tum theek ho na?" - if you deleted these repeated lines, the physical binding of the screenplay would be a quarter of the total pages less. Really. Is this filmmakers' idea of reaching out to a wider audience? Better their characters not speak. An image speaks a thousand words, eh?

The average direction is balanced with some good cinematography. The director has obviously paid more attention to where the camera will be and how it will move rather than working out the edit or focussing on the more minor aspects such as the secondary characters. The sequence in the beginning where Deepika lights a cigarette in her cabin is an example of how low the level of amateurishness drops. The background score is heavy, but I suppose required. Nothing new though. Sound is inconsistent - the scene in the mall is obviously sync and it's strange because there doesn't seem to be any ambient noise and the extras are clearly moving their lips without speaking. Sound of Silence anyone?

Farhan Akhtar is dependable as usual and carries the film, what with all the relentless close-ups. And Deepika essays a role very similar to all her other attempts, lacking any kind of latitude.

If you like cliche-ridden films with items in discos and a kick out of being able to predict what happens next (and you will easy be able to) then perhaps this is your cup of tea. If on the other hand you actually enjoy cinema and have satellite TV, hang in there.

 

SPOILER ALERT! >>>>>>> DON''T READ FURTHER IF YOU DON'T WANT TO KNOW THE "TWIST" OR HAVE ALREADY SEEN THE FILM <<<<<<< SPOILER ALERT!

 

Conceptually the film is weak at heart. Lalwani was probably reading some electronic manuals at an airport lounge and had a brainwave. The idea of a character suffering from schizophrenia and writing a film around it is a done and dusted idea that went out of style in the 80s. To top that with the film's only suspenseful thread - how is Karthik calling himself? - based on an extremely predictable technicality of the blasted phone having such a record-your-message feature is simply indigestible. Worse still, you can guess from the promos themselves. It would've been far more entertaining - if somewhat unbelievable and hard to pull off - if none of the events ever happened - a la Sixth Sense. If Farhan's boss never did fire or promote him, if there was no psychologist, and if at the end, Deepika still didn't know Farhan any better than she did in the first couple of scenes. It's possible the audience would feel cheated, but then that's where experience, craft, and good writing come in. Can you hook the audience in a way that they willingly choose to ignore all inconsistencies and logic loopholes? KCK ends up with the same chronic Bollywood problem: what could've been...


Upperstall review by: filmbear





 

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