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By Pratim D. Gupta Did you like/not like Karthik Calling Karthik? Tell
  • Published 27.02.10

Why does Karthik call Karthik? Is it actually Karthik at the other end of the phone? Can anybody else hear the other Karthik? Is the other Karthik a figment of Karthik’s imagination?

These niggling questions may lead you to believe that Karthik Calling Karthik is about an intriguing plot with one mother of a twist in its tail. But as the reels unspool, one by one, you realise it’s more about the state of a mind rather than the reason behind its meanderings. You also sense that it’s more of a Farhan Akhtar show than a Vijay Lalwani debut.

Before he started shooting for Karthik Calling Karthik, Farhan had told us that he didn’t have to try too hard to become Aditya in Rock On!! and Vikram in Luck By Chance but he was finally getting out of his comfort zone by being Karthik. And while the film doesn’t rise to match his talent, Farhan brings magic to the ‘madness’ and makes the ‘trip’ worth it. Almost.

Karthik keerein makodon ki tarah jeeta hai. His double trouble? Kharoos boss at work and khoosat landlord at home. One makes him work and the other makes him pay. His sapnon ki duniya? Colleague Shonali Mukherjee (Deepika), as the hundreds of love drafts in his mailbox would testify.

But our man is almost invisible thanks to his amazingly low self confidence and the sheer lack of personality. The dream girl’s not even aware of his presence and they have been working together for four years.

That’s when Karthik starts calling Karthik. Every morning at 5, the phone rings and instructions flow through the curled cords. It’s very much his voice and the man knows everything about him — from his bank PIN to the colour of his socks.

By intermission point, the boss and the landlord have been taken care of and the girl is ready to spend a lifetime with him. But what about the man on the phone?

The first half of Karthik Calling Karthik is so feel-good and the romance so much fun that you don’t really worry about the other Karthik. When the lights go off again, the genre shifts and a psychological thriller ensues. And while that last hour does have some genuinely creepy moments, the rug is unnecessarily tugged at all the time and by the time it’s pulled from under the feet, there is no sinking feeling.

Unfortunately, rather than leading on to something spectacular, the phone, the calls and the caller turn out to be what we call in movie parlance a Macguffin — a plot element that drives the plot of a film but has very little to do with the film.

Also it takes too long to get to that dissatisfying payoff. It’s only because of Farhan’s arresting performance that you sit and soak in the proceedings. Divided into three distinct acts, the man covers the entire arc and how! From the unsure and introverted Karthik to the self-assured and go-getter Karthik to the helpless and troubled Karthik, Farhan owns the film. It’s as fascinating to see him not to do anything at all as it is to catch him swagger through the office corridors.

He also makes a great pair with Deepika, who looks gorgeous in Niharika Khan’s costumes even if her performance is a little uneven. Also, the lines lack the punch and it is left to the songs to lift the love story.

Shankar Ehsaan Loy have always reserved the best for Farhan, whether he is behind the camera or in front of it. KCK too is a super soundtrack. Hey ya and Uff teri ada are the obvious catchy picks but even the title track is appropriately sinister.

Sanu Varughese shoots the film in carefully picked grey and green tones. But he could have gone a little wilder given the mood of the movie. Editor Aarti Bajaj also would have done well by trimming the flab a bit more.

Don’t go in sniffing a terrific twist and you might well enjoy Karthik Calling Karthik. It’s like the Rubik’s Cube used as the leitmotif of the film. You can’t leave it even if the pieces refuse to fall into place.