Director: Ram Madhvani
Cast: Kartik Aaryan, Mrunal Thakur, Amruta Subhash
It has become fashionable for Indian cinema to remake foreign films, mostly South Korean, sometimes French. Of course, this is perfectly legal, but in a nation like India with its rich and diverse stories, it may be regrettable that we do not tap more often into our own mythology, culture and fiction.
Be that as it may, Ram Madhvani’s thriller, Dhamaka, just out on Netflix, is a remake of the South Korean drama, The Terror Live – a bloody, brutal look at television news and how one channel plays against another, all for higher ratings. I really would not know whether The Terror Live is actually based on what happens in that country. But in India, exaggerated news by some TV channels – as shown in Madhvani’s work – may not be wholly untrue. It is a widely held view that the electronic medium in India is given to sensationalism. Truth is dressed up to make it more compelling, which can lead to livelihoods being demolished, and characters “assassinated”.
Yes, there are some above all this and are fairly controlled and subdued in their presentation. Not so TRTV in the movie. Despite its claim to present “truth, nothing but the truth”, the channel does veer into lies, as we watch Dhamaka roll frame by frame towards a horrific climax.
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Arjun Pathak (Kartik Aaryan) is a rather depressed TV anchor, who is all set to divorce his wife, Saumya Mehra Pathak (Mrunal Thakur in a guest appearance). What is equally worse is that he has been demoted from a presenter to a radio jockey, an assignment he hates.
His life perks up when he gets a call from an unknown person, who says that he is all set to blow up the Mumbai Sea Link, facing the television office, if the minister concerned does not apologise for the death of three labourers, who helped build the bridge. And the caller wants the minister to step into the television station and tender the apology in full public view.
When Arjun chides the caller saying that he is playing a game, a part of the sea link is blown up. What follows is chaos and panic with the channel trying to up its rating, Arjun hoping to get back his previous assignment with this breaking news and his boss, Ankita (Amruta Subhash), daring to go against ethics and humanism. It is big time chaos at the TV office, where confusion gets confounded with many men, women and children trapped on the bridge, and Saumya too, who had gone to the spot to report also for TRTV!
In a thriller of this sort, one does not expect any great performance, but Mrunal is expressive and interesting in portraying the joys of marriage and, later, distress as she stands on the collapsing sea link.
Dhamaka is pacy, and it may seem that there is never a dull moment. But it is does go overboard with some of the scenes. Those between Arjun and Ankita hardly look plausible. Do employees behave with their bosses the way Arjun does with his? I suppose writers and directors do not care as long as they attract footfalls or eyeballs.
(Gautaman Bhaskaran is an author, commentator and movie critic who has been covering major film festivals like Cannes and Venice close to three decades)