REUTERS - Nearly seven years after he made “Delhi Belly”, director Abhinay Deo returns to the black comedy genre with “Blackmail”. By the end of the film, you wonder why it took him so long.
Wonderfully written and performed, and full of peculiar characters, this is a film that takes great pleasure in celebrating people’s quirks.
Dev (Irrfan Khan) is broke, stuck in a dead marriage and a dead-end job at a firm that manufactures toilet paper. He spends late nights in office playing Pac-Man and masturbating surreptitiously to a photo of a colleague’s wife.
At home, breakfast conversations with wife Reena (Kirti Kulhari) revolve around mundane topics like paying bills. In office, Dev deals with a crazy boss (Omi Vaidya) and his outlandish ideas about promoting toilet paper.
When a friend suggests adding some romance to his life and surprising his wife by going home early, Dev agrees. But the surprise turns to shock when he peeps into the bedroom and finds Reena in bed with a stranger.
Another man might have reacted violently, but not Dev. Instead, he buys a cheap phone and uses it to blackmail his wife’s boyfriend, Ranjit, for a hundred thousand rupees ($1,540).
Ranjit (Arunoday Singh) is married to a rich older woman, Dolly, who keeps him on a tight leash (she calls him Tommy). Perennially short of money (“I don’t even have money to buy protein powder,” he tells Reena exasperatedly) and mortally afraid of his wife and her politician father, the blackmail attempt terrifies Ranjit and sets in motion events with hilarious consequences.
Director Deo doesn’t miss an opportunity to allude to Indian pop culture, be it Whatsapp jokes or Bollywood films. A sequence between Ranjit and a blind gun dealer is particularly hilarious for its inside jokes.
Deo’s skill lies in not stretching the humour or the farcical aspects of the film. When the storyline is in danger of getting out of hand, he pulls it back, aided ably by a superb cast. Irrfan Khan’s pokerfaced manner even as his character goes through emotional upheaval is in perfect sync with the film’s deadpan humour.
Anuja Sathe as Dev’s inscrutable colleague, Divya Dutta as Ranjit’s wife and Arunoday Singh as the hulking simpleton who cannot seem to catch a break are all perfectly cast. Much like his protagonist, Deo gets out of tight spots with alacrity and comes out the winner.
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