Movie Review

Dhamaka movie review: Kartik Aaryan thriller lacks urgency, terror, tension

Dhamaka movie cast: Kartik Aryan, Mrunal Thakur, Amruta Subhash, Vikas Kumar, Vishwajeet Pradhan
Dhamaka movie director: Ram Madhvani
Dhamaka movie rating: 1 star

A day in the life of reluctant radio jockey Arjun Pathak (Kartik Aryan) is about to turn upside down: within minutes of the film’s opening, he is flung into the middle of a huge crisis. A man calls in, claiming he will blow up the Mumbai Sea Link if his demands are not met. And within minutes of that, there’s a loud bang, and outside his window, in the distance, Arjun sees parts of the landmark bridge collapsing into the sea.
Who is the unknown man? What does he want? The voice on the phone becomes a beacon towards which barrels Aryan’s ratings-hungry boss Ankita Malaskar (Amruta Subhash), who does only what ‘the channel’ wants, ethics be damned. The caller wants a powerful politician to apologise for something he (the caller) believes led to the death of three persons, and he wants Arjun’s help. So, there’s your conflict: the reporter who claims that he parlays only the truth and nothing but the truth, and the desperate caller who wants his voice to be heard.

‘Dhamaka’, a remake of the 2013 Korean film ‘The Terror Live’, lays out an increasingly familiar collision course, between TV channels with their insatiable greed for higher and higher ratings, and ordinary people lacking financial and social clout. These are people who find themselves out of the orbit of profiteering corporations masquerading as media that only peddle sensation. And ironically, some of these are people who still believe that news anchors are oracles. It is a theme worth exploring, but gets lost in the clunky execution.

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As the disgraced TV anchor who wants his prime-time spot back at only cost, donning zero power glasses ‘to look serious’, Aryan starts off well enough. As does Subhash, as the hard-edged TV channel boss with not a single empathic bone in her body, barking orders to ‘go live, go live’. But soon enough, you realise that the crucial elements of a thriller — the urgency, the tension, the terror that the characters on screen are meant to be feeling– are missing.

That’s because everything that’s happening on screen feels contrived and improbable. None of the ‘breaking news’ situations, none of the tragedy unfolding on the damaged bridge, none of the rapid-fire action happening within the newsroom, feels real. The whole film feels like a set. And everyone feels like they are acting out set-pieces.

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This could be something to do with the failure of Bollywood to recreate buzzy news floors with veracity. Somehow, it’s either too exaggerated, or too bland, with none of the knife-edged tensions that run through the place like electricity when news is breaking, and everyone is working full tilt at the next day’s edition, or the next bulletin. It could also be that these characters never feel like flesh-and-blood, just broad outlines.
Sample this. A news anchor suddenly claps a hand to her ear, which has blood seeping out. We hear a sharp scream. What Just Happened? You expect a stunned silence, horrified reactions, an explanation. But none of that happens. A belated explanation does come in a while, but by that time, the film has sunk lower on the tension scale.

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Even the worst TV channels in real life with their shrieking guests and poisonous debates have more drama than the goings-on in this fictional Bharosa 24/7. Hard to believe that this comes from Ram Madhvani, whose ‘Neerja’ and ‘Aarya’ worked so well with creating believable characters, interesting scenarios, while keeping us on the edge. Here’s a man teetering on the edge of sanity, and here’s another who is confronting his demons, and their lives are hanging by a thread. And we don’t buy a thing.

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