The one-night thriller has a premise that’s relatable – justice for a normal citizen who’s outclassed by the power of wealth. The loss of a child and the impotence of parents who can’t get him justice could drive a person to take desperate measures as Seema Pallav (Neena Gupta) does when she dials 100.
In the police control room at the other end is Senior PI Nikhil Sood (Manoj Bajpayee) and it’s soon apparent that this is no random call. Seema has a personal connection with Nikhil and there are so many un-subtle references to their respective sons that the link stares you in the face.
There have been reports in the media that Dial 100 resembles Halle Berry’s The Call but writer-director Rensil D’silva’s film isn’t anything like the 2013 Hollywood thriller. The home-grown product has an emphatic point to make especially at the very end.
However, D’silva whose Qurbaan and Ugli were disappointing in the past, is still to get that elusive edge-of-the-seat finesse in his writing. Nikhil and wife Prerna (Sakshi Tanwar) have domestic arguments over the phone when he’s at work, conversations that could very well have happened at home. But you know that the ground is being clumsily laid to introduce their wayward teenage son. And when Seema refers to her son who died in an accident, you can connect the dots.
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There’s just that much an actor can do when the majority of his scenes are over the phone. Manoj Bajpayee did all his work over the phone in Aiyaari and he does it again in Dial 100. But this time he’s not in control, he’s the distraught family man who must save his wife and son from Seema who seeks revenge.
Manoj is his competent self, most of the way. Sakshi Tanwar who has to wring her hands helplessly is comfortable in the role. Neena Gupta, like Manoj, is efficient in a majority of the scenes. It’s the same with the narration, easy in parts and awkward in some.
With a roomful of cops in the control room, it’s a bit strange to find Nikhil doing what he does all on his own when assistance was available right there. At the end too, he’s the solo policeman in the parking lot when a whole posse could’ve helped him end his family woes. So there is the element of implausibility in many of Rensil’s scenes, and sequences like Neena Gupta driving a car are shot like an amateur. The only face-to-face dialogue between Neena and Manoj in the parking lot also doesn’t find the two actors at their artistic best.
However, what happens after that parking lot sequence is where Manoj comes into his own and winds up his performance like an ace. It’s where the film also gets to the point, with the police inspector put in a situation that equates him with the Pallav parents. It’s the end where Dial 100 makes its most humane point and for which Rensil deserves a pat on the back.