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regular-article-logo Wednesday, 19 June 2024

A review of Gumraah

This movie is lacklustre remake whose tweaks to original are unconvincing at best and downright silly at worst

Priyanka Roy  Published 08.04.23, 11:42 AM
Aditya Roy Kapur in Gumraah

Aditya Roy Kapur in Gumraah

Four months ­­into the year and Gumraah — after Shehzada, Selfiee and Bholaa — is the fourth remake of a South Indian film. Which says more about Bollywood's increasing creative bankruptcy than it does about the popularity of and the demand for remakes. The 2019 Tamil film Thadam makes its way to the Hindi screen as this Friday's release, with Gumraah being a lacklustre remake whose tweaks to the original are unconvincing at best and downright silly at worst.

Much like Thadam, Gumraah positions itself as a whodunit, with the prime suspects being two men with the same face. Arjun Sehgal (Aditya Roy Kapur) and Sooraj Rana (Aditya Roy Kapur) find themselves facing a murder charge based on pictorial evidence. But in the absence of a clear motive and the presence of rock-solid alibis for both, the cops — among them being Mrunal Thakur's stiff-lipped lady officer — find it impossible to nail either of the two, or both. What's more, Arjun and Sooraj harbour a visible, unexplained, animosity towards each other, even as top cop Dhiren Yadav (Rohit Roy) seems to have a personal axe to grind with one of them.

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The revelation of the 'humshakals' happens early in Gumraah (in fact, it's even present in the trailer) but that doesn't act as a deal-breaker because it is this very intrigue that the film strives to hinge itself on. But even as it almost faithfully follows the beats of Thadam, making minor changes here and there, there is no real effort or inclination on the part of Gumraah to infuse its plot and players with any kind of freshness.

Added to that is debutant director Vardhan Ketkar and writer Aseem Arora's predilection to double-underline each and every plot twist, with their inability to gauge — and more importantly, respect — the viewer's aptitude to pick up on both context and subtext, making Gumraah a dictionary for murder-mystery dummies at the end of the day. For example, at crucial junctures the film flashes cards that scream out 'The Crime'; 'The Investigation' and 'The Verdict', perhaps thinking that the audience wouldn't be able to distinguish one from the other, a fear not altogether unfounded given how jumbled and juvenile Gumraah turns out to be. Or maybe they did realise that many in the audience could possibly indulge in more than 40 winks during the film's runtime and this is their way to bring us up to speed. Smart!

If only Gumraah had been half as smart in its storytelling. The premise of two lookalike suspects being held for the same crime that either or none of them has committed is one with immense promise. But if Thadam had Arun Vijay successfully distinguishing between the two characters — one, a seemingly honest white-collared engineer, the other a rowdy gambler and con man — Aditya Roy Kapur's acting chops (or rather the lack of it) leaves no room for distinction between the two. Not a single facial muscle of either character moves impressively enough to register as some sort of acting. He does get to take off his shirt though — both characters share the habit of pumping iron — and if that qualifies as acting, then Aditya is in serious contention for an Oscar.

Equally prosaic is the police procedural at the heart of the film's plot, one which relies on the investigating officer to have a 'eureka' moment staring at the most commonly used trope in every crime thriller — the unassuming evidence board. In fact, Gumraah is so dull and generic that after a while, you don't even care who the murderer ultimately turns out to be. Added to the drudgery are subplots involving a romance, a broken home, a mother who is a pathological gambler and a sidekick whose name sums up the film. He is called Chaddi.

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