Saturday, April 2, 2011

GAME or Revenge of Bluffmaster

You will have to bear in mind that I’m not the biggest Abhishek Bachchan fan. If he is your favorite Hero and you would enjoy watching him run around and do stuff for no reason, then you will mostly likely enjoy Game much more than I did.

I’m going to keep this as spoiler-free as possible, in case you plan on seeing the film.

There is a moment towards the end of
Game where the drug kingpin of Istanbul, Neil Mennon (Abhishek Bachchan), coolly throws some exposition out at Detective Sia Agnihotri (Kangana Ranaut) and then struts offscreen. Sia, her gun still in hand, stays in the frame for a few moments with a look of confusion and annoyance on her face. That was exactly how I felt through most of the post-interval section of the film. Never before have I seen two more disparate narratives shoved together – a stylish Agatha Christie influenced whodunit morphs into Dhoom 5: The Revenge of Bluffmaster - and the results are alternately dull, frustrating, confusing, and eventually just plain unintentionally hilarious.

Let me rewind for a moment, much how Abhinay Deo structures the film’s narrative.


Game begins like vintage murder mystery And Then There Were None - a group of strangers with no obvious ties are summoned to meet billionaire Kabir Malhotra (Anupam Kher) on his private island. We meet Bollywood superstar Vikram Kapoor (Jimmy Shergill), who is covering up a nasty little secret involving his make-up man; Thai politician with a campaign finance problem O.P. Ramsay (Boman Irani); previously mentioned drug kingpin of Istanbul Neil Mennon (Abhishek Bachchan); and booze-soaked crime reporter Tisha Khanna (Shahana Goswami).

This is a classic set-up for a reason: it works. We get small glimpses into the characters lives and see some fine noir-ish acting from everyone. Yes, even Abhishek, who has always played smarmy and glib with a certain panache.

Kabir Malhotra delivers an early twist by explaining to the assembled cast why there are there only a mere 20 minutes or so into the film.


You see, there was a girl who was hit by a car.

She is played by Sarah Jane Dias.


There is another fine style of noir storytelling explores the character of a murdered person by finding out how she impacted the lives of those she left behind. I watched a fine film in that vein a couple of days ago -


For perhaps 15 minutes, I was impressed that
Game was going to be one of those films.

Do the assembled people have a connection to the girl?

Who is she really?

Before we get answers, there is a murder in Kabir Malhotra’s mansion and Detective Sia Agnihotri (Kangana Ranaut) arrives to strut around and do a
very agreeable Agent Scully routine.

She is going to solve this case if it’s the last thing she does.


Neil Menon does stuff!

Look, he’s running around!

Here’s a flashback!

Other characters? There are other characters in this?

Look, now Detective Sia is being sidelined by Neil in her own investigation!



When I say that the second half of
Game is terrible, I mean it.

Do you remember that scene in
Love Story 2050 where Harman Baweja runs away from some Aussie thugs voiced by Bollywood Gora and we were supposed to think it was awesome? Yeah. There is a scene to rival that one in pure pointlessness.

The major problem with the narrative in the second half of
Game is that everybody disappears except Abhishek Bachchan. All the plot threads are dropped; all the characters are dropped; the mystery lady is solved as (*SPOILER BUT NOT REALLY*) the Junior B’s love interest; and Neil Menon takes over the investigation from Detective Sia. We go from noir to lazy, ham-fisted revenge drama on a dime.

It’s a real shame because I was genuinely interested in what was going to happen with the other characters.

What is Vikram Kapoor so afraid everybody is going to find out?

How did O.P. Ramsay rise in Thai politics?

Why does Tisha drink so much?

We never find out and the great performances from Jimmy Shergill, Shahana Goswami, and Boman Irani go to waste.

Detective Sia Agnihotri is a different case and involves something I had been thinking earlier regarding my love of boastful hiphop. Some people feel that all
braggadocio is in poor taste and, when coming from men, is misogynist. The same argument gets leveled against masala heroes, whose quest for narrative fulfillment can sideline the heroine’s. I would argue that there is a difference between the kind of hero is just so amazing that there is no room for the heroine in the story versus the hero who actively needs to be putting the heroine in a passive position to make himself look good.

Game absolutely sticks both the mystery girl and Sia into passive positions as soon as Neil Menon struts on the scene. They go from scrappy and independent to needing Neil to provide them with everything.

It’s disgusting.

The last scene of the film has Sia looking up at Neil with big doe eyes as he stares majestically off into the distance.

I never would have gone to the film if I knew that was the way it ended.


CAST (In alphabetical order)

Abhishek Bachchan… he’s in fine form pre-interval and I already went over the problems post-interval.

Sarah Jane Dias is vacant. She’s pretty but doesn’t leave an impression and her dancing could use work.

Shahana Goswami overdoes the drunk act exactly the right amount for the
noir material. And she looks phenomenal. Why isn’t she working more?

Boman Irani gets
such a juicy role and it kills me when we drop his character. OP Ramsay would fit right into Raajneeti. Maybe we’ll see Boman do a politician in the future.

Gauhar Khan barely registers.

Anupam Kher is gloriously understated as billionaire Kabir Malhotra. He’s a blank slate – which is exactly what the narrative calls for.

Kangana Ranaut makes a fine policewoman. You can see Sia working things out in her head… at least before Neil takes over the investigation. And Sia isn’t butch but she is confident in her abilities… at least before Neil takes over.

Jimmy Shergill is fantastic as actor Vikram Kapoor. There is a tease of one of a film-within-a-film that I wish we could have explored more. I’ve always enjoyed Jimmy’s work but he’s really impressed me in both this and
Tanu Weds Manu and I hope we continue to see him in Bollywood.


Abhinay Deo gets mixed marks from me as the director. He gets some good performances and does some nice work in pieces but it doesn’t flow together well. The tone of the film is choppy and falls into too many clichés in setting in the second half. Plus, the scenes always felt really boxed in – claustrophobic at times – and we had no sense of location other than the titles that flashed up. For example, there some scenes set in “London” that were shot in Mumbai that I didn’t realize were supposed to be in London until one of the characters said something.

Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy bring their C-game to
Game and I would like to suggest that next time, instead of shooting in Turkey, Abhivay Deo should use some of that cash to shell out for a real string section instead of tacky sounding synthesizers which lower the quality of a scene by about 50 percent.

Production design, costume design, and make-up design were all phenomenal. I want to shout out Shahshank Tere, who added nice touches like giving Kabir Malhotra a meaningful corporate logo. Jaimal Odedra did the costumes and made sure that everybody looked top-notch – very noir. And the make-up from Shabana Latif was also great. Kangana’s look was very plain; Sarah Jane was glittery; and Shahana was dark and smokey. All very appropriate.


I would caution against seeing Game in the theater unless you are a die-hard Abhi fan. It is worth a DVD viewing but keep a finger on the fast forward button during the second half.


Lime(tte) said...

Awww, I thought this was going to be good... I actually was quite excited for it.

eliza bennet said...

Sounds like this is all Abhi all the time - and he is wearing suits too, well I do like him and even watched Drona until the end, so bring it on!

Amaluu said...

WOO HOO an Abhishek-fest movie that is Bluffmaster-esque? And FG disliked it, which usually means I'll love it! :-)

Filmi Girl said...

@amaluu Be warned that Asim thought it was dumb, too... And he's an AB fan. :)

Amaluu said...

Ah yes, but you guys both LOVED Tees Maar Khan too ...

That said, I hate when plot lines and characters are just dropped. The trailer looked exciting though. I'll let you know once I see it.

Md said...

So we have A whodunit here : why did the various plots vanish into oblivion except for junior? Could it be because junior's films were flopping all around and buttons were pushed to rework the screenplay so that its no longer an ensemble but junior alone holding center-stage? Senior in his waning days also took to hogging practically every single scene in a film.

Kangana making doe eyes at junior in the End?! BARF!! Now I am glad I gave this film a miss.

Note from Filmi Girl:

I love Bollywood - and all the ridiculous things that happen in Bollywood - but it doesn't mean that I can't occasionally make fun of various celebrities and films.

If you don't like my sense of humor, please just move on by - Trolls are not appreciated and nasty comments will be deleted.

xoxo Filmi Girl
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