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NANDINI KRISHNAN
Cinema Scope

Discordant mating calls

5th Jan 2013

Table No. 21

Director: Aditya Datt

Starring: Rajeev Khandelwal, Paresh Rawal, Tena Desae

The trailer told us just about everything – a couple (Rajeev Khandelwal and Tena Desae) get to go on a dream holiday, flying business class, making out on beaches, and being offered yet more money if they agree to go to Table Number 21, which has only one rule: You lie, you die. Huh? Is that even legal in a game show? But, I suppose if the likes of I'm a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here and Survivor are on television, it just might be.

The problem with this "thriller" is that parts of it are so off that even an over-the-top Paresh Rawal, playing a weird hairdo sporting Abdur Razzaq Khan, can't save the film. Of course, there's an obvious nudge-nudge-poke-poke in making Rajeev Khandelwal the protagonist of the film, fresh out of his tryst with Sachh Ka Saamna. At one point, I was wondering whether the movie was trying to spoof the show, since the central preoccupations of both game shows appear to be adultery and abortion.

You could impose intellectual interpretations on the film, and call it social commentary, given that no reality show seems inconceivable today, with sanctioned voyeurism reaching the levels it has. However, if you do, the screenplay will let you down sooner than later. The film does have its complex moments, but these are undermined by mundane staples. And there's little to justify the twist at the end, which only leaves us feeling annoyed, like we've been cheated just for the heck of it.

In its attempt to keep us hooked, the story misleads us a little too deliberately, a little too often. Naturally, there are red herrings scattered all over the place, and no one bothers to pick them up. The whole film appears contrived in retrospect, and we're left gaping at the loose ends the filmmakers have slammed the doors shut on.

Poor Tena Desae appears to have been used only to titillate the audience. Though Rajeev Khandelwal does a decent job of acting, the characters don't make us care for them, leave alone empathise. I mean, folks who're dumb enough to think people will give them twenty-one crore rupees for telling them the "truth" deserve all that they deal with, methinks. A chap clever enough to come up with, "What's the catch?" ought to know there's a trap.

The Verdict: The film feels both familiar and bizarre, which isn't a particularly healthy mix. But if you're willing to buy tickets at weekend rates to smirk and snort, go ahead.

 
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