MOST MIDDLE-CLASS Indian children start out with Enid Blyton. Then we go on to PG Wodehouse and Agatha Christie. Sophocles? Naah. Oedipus we get with our mother’s milk, or so we’ve been told ad nauseam over a maternal shoulder. Nagesh Kukunoor takes a Christinine plot, mixes some Hamlet (“Revenge his foul and most unnatural murder”), and adds a touch of the supernatural or the superpowersy, depending on how you want to look at it.
The way you look at it is crucial. The Bollywood hero has always been blessed with powers beyond the ordinary mortal. His rage scorches the city, fuelled by his oedipal struggle. He leaps three floors upwards to rescue his heroine, powered by love. Here, Jai (Akshay Kumar) has the ability to look at a photograph and tell the past. He could tell you where your mobile phone is, he could find Phui-ji’s missing emerald pendant. A man like this should be in constant demand. Only, Jai is cast out from his family. His daddy doesn’t think much of him. His wife supports him grudgingly. His mommy weeps. Then Jai’s father dies in an accident and Jai comes across a picture of his father, taken just before the incident. This leads him to believe that his father was murdered. Now he must investigate.
All of which doesn’t sound like Kukunoor. First of all, what is the God of small films, the maker of Hyderabad Blues, Iqbal and Dor, doing with Akshay Kumar? Could it be that Kukunoor has magical powers and has seen talent where no one else has? Is Kukunoor crossing over to the bad side of Bollywood? Could it be that someone told him, after the debacle that was Hyderabad Blues 2, that it would be better to cast someone like Akshay Kumar rather than himself?
So how does it stack up? As a supernatural film, barely okay. As a superhero film? Naah. As a detective thriller?
As early as the 1920s, Ronald Knox had laid down the rules for the detective story. His second rule is: “All supernatural or preternatural agencies are ruled out as a matter of course.”
In general, though, this kind of film is guaranteed to disappoint everyone. The Kukunoor buffs will go in expecting something with more gristle. The Akshay Kumar fans may wonder what exactly is going on. Why can’t their hero just beat the shit out of all those guys who might have a motive for killing his father and get at the truth?
It’s worked before.