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Blank Is A Flab-Free Thriller




Starring: Sunny Deol, Karan Kapadia, Ishita Dutt, Karanvir  Sharma, Jameel Khan

Directed  by: Behzad Khambata

Rating: ****(4 stars)

 In a film where the devil  lies  (and  never tells  the truth) in  the  details, it is  significant that  debutant  KaranKapadia who  plays   the title role of  suicide bomber whose mind has  apparently gone blank  after  an accident, is not mentioned in  the opening credit titles. His name comes on only  at the end when all the  heat and smoke has settled down on what is clearly one of the most original and  gripping films on  the  wages  of  terrorism  we’ve seen in living memory .

From the  moment  Blank opens when we see  a confused  bearded  shell-shocked young man being  readied  for an  encounter killing, we are  hooked. If he is  a dreaded terrorist  attached to  a  bomb as intricate as the politics  of   radicalism  practised  in our country, why does  he look like  a victim?

(Hint: Ishrat Jahan).

On the surface  Blank is  a gloriously gripping  cat-and-mouse tale  of a suicide bomber  and  an   anti-terror  cop(Sunny Deol, in supreme  control). The  narrative has the  long-legged dexterity  of Neeraj Pandey’s  A Wednesdayand  the  fast-paced real-time  action scenes that  Akshay Kumar  is seen  performing in Baby  or  Airlift, films which minimize the fantasy  element in global politics without reducing the ‘thriller’ element inherent in the  plot.

Blank does  the same.  But with much more frugality and  economy.  Its  45-minute storytelling has no room or tolerance  for humbug. The narrative  zips across  a few days in the life  of angry wounded  Mumbai without  using the camera to eulogize the  city’s  multi-cultural atmosphere.Curiously  Blank , though a  film about the mob mentality,chooses to  telescope  the  life of  the characters  into a  manageable range  of vision. I think this deliberate ploy of  tempering  terrorism  comes  from the  director’s determination  to steer his  story  through its  politics  into a space where we see  individuals  liberated  of their political and  cultural baggage.

First-time  director  Behzad Khambata  has no patience for  flab. There  is  not an ounce of  superfluousnesss in the  storytelling  .

 Blank is  that  rare kind of thriller where the  city never sleeps.The restless edge provided to  the  plot  is  directly traceable  to  the  ceaseless  action that underlines  Mumbai’s  tormented  topography. R Dee’s cinematography  prowls the  city without losing sight  of  the  plot on hand.

The film is designed like  an impossibly  swift rollercoaster ride. Events  unfold  in a stream  of  fast-flowing  incidents .There  is  always room for  the unexpected in this  expertly crafted anti-terror  actioner.

While Sunny Deol  holds the  plot together  with a  face and  attitude that suggest experience without the accompanying  cynicism but with plenty of worldweary  anger, the supporting cast specially KaranvirSharma(playing Deol’s anti-terror team mate)  and Jameel Khan(as  the  jihadi  terrorist) are  terrific.

As for debutant Karan Kapadia, he has chosen to  make things almost impossibly difficult  for himself  in his first film. Playing the  suicide bomber   who goes through  several dark shades  of  change in the narration, Kapadia gives an explosive  account of  a reluctant fundamentalist’s craggy journey from damnation to  tentative salvation.

The way Kapadia  uses his voice to convey anxiety and anger is remarkable.There is  one particular sequence  in a police van where Deol’s  Dewan is  in an emotionally charged telephonic conversation  with his truant son. Overhearing him talk, Kapadia’s  Hanif  tells  Dewan, “Is that  your son? Is he in trouble? It will be  okay. You will  make it okay.”

 That’s  the  suicide  bomber telling his potential assailant that there is  another son  sitting right in front of him awaiting justice.Moments  like these humanize the  suicide  bomber without romanticizing him.

This is  a craggy breakneck film which does have its  improbable at times tacky interludes. One action  sequence  at the end aboard a train  is  particularly embarrassing.And  the background score  tends  to get  carried away with its chore of  accentuating the  action. But director Khambata  demonstrates an admirable  control over the  chaotic universe that his  distraught  characters  inhabit.

Blank must be seen  for  its tightly clustered almost suffocating narrative pattern. We are  in  it till the exacerbated  end  for better or worse.

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