Dhaakad Review: Kangana Ranaut Cannot Rescue this Stylish Yet Wasteful Thriller

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Dhaakad Review: Kangana Ranaut Cannot Rescue this Stylish Yet Wasteful Thriller

Illustration: Arati Gujar

In Dhaakad, Kangana Ranaut (Agni) plays a brilliant international agent of Indian origin who is often deployed to carry out high-risk operations and break big-time criminal rackets. The film introduces her, single-handedly bringing down an army of men in Budapest and procuring crucial information in the process. Agni is fearless, feisty and a badass nobody wants to mess with. She’s then packed off to her homeland India to nab Arjun Rampal (Rudraveer) a man who has been ruthlessly running a major sex trafficking ring for years. What we don’t know is that the man she is after is also the one responsible for a grave personal tragedy in her own life. Director Rajneesh Ghai creates a slick action-thriller with a protagonist who embodies bits and pieces of power-girls we are already familiar with. But what the film offers in terms of action and technical prowess, it struggles to match through the story and the soul.

Blazing guns, sword fights, expensive cars being blown up, gravity defying stunts that aim to keep you on the edge- the film has it all.

A cross between Beatrix Kiddo (Kill Bill), Lara Croft and a female James Bond if there was one, Agni is a killing machine who sees nothing beyond duty. The only thing that brings her to her knees is a traumatic childhood, one that she’s constantly battling with both personally and professionally. Her only aim is to now bring down the man who destroyed her family, and rescue a little girl she sees herself in. The plot isn’t unbelievable, but Dhaakad gives us nothing we haven’t seen in countless international action films. To which effect it could have been localised far better for Indian audiences.

Blazing guns, sword fights, expensive cars being blown up, gravity defying stunts that aim to keep you on the edge- the film has it all. The only tragedy is that it’s so damn influenced by foreign films that it fails to settle into the Indian context as a homegrown story. If we had to see a Kill Bill-like sharp and stark action thriller, we could just watch Kill Bill. Influence is one thing but being inspired to the point of imitation is like admitting defeat before the battle. If Ghai is trying to establish himself within the action genre, he could have done well to find his own voice. We have never seen a leading Indian actress perform the kind of mind-numbing stunts Kangana has in this film. But while we regal her with veneration for making that sort of effort, the film could have tried to bulk up on other things like story over style, soul over sensationalism, all the time.

The only tragedy is that it’s so damn influenced by foreign films that it fails to settle into the Indian context as a homegrown story.

The plot which loosely uses sex-trafficking to create a desi connect hardly hits home. The antagonists Ruraveer and Rohini (Divya Dutta) are introduced with as much style as the protagonist and you often wonder if glorifying the kind of violence this film shows for the sake of cinema is acceptable. In fact, it would have been okay if the story held itself together and if even one of the many characters stayed with you till long after the film finished. Sharib Hashmi who plays Kangana’s Indian assistant actually brings in much needed gravitas in a film that is otherwise a lot of style, without substance. He is a single father stuck in a dangerous profession for the sake of his daughter and he’s the only one in the film who feels human.

What the writers (Rajnesh Ghai, Chintan Gandhi, Ritesh Shah, Rajiv Menon) forgot to take inspiration from is that every supercop or supervillain has a side to him/her that makes them human. There’s a story of betrayal, love, connections, relationships that we latch onto even in these films – as clichéd and worn they might be. That’s where the surreal becomes believable, and that’s what drives an action film and brings meaning to the thrills. Otherwise no matter how cool, catchy and crisp the stunts are, it all seems like an effort towards nothing. Everything from the camerawork to the action choreography to the music feels like a rehearsed version of something we have seen elsewhere. For all of Kangana’s talents she is never really used the way she could have been. Not delivering to her potential is just one of the many sins this passable action thriller makes.

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