Cast- Sanjay Dutt, Alia Bhatt, Aditya Roy Kapur, Pooja Bhatt
Director- Mahesh Bhatt
Production- Mukesh Bhatt
Sanjay Dutt utters ‘Ram naam satya hai’ towards the end of the film. You do mourn the demise of a high-value director called Mahesh Bhatt.
Towards the end of his career as director, Bhatt had begun to place a premium on mental instability in many of his films.
In his return to the director’s chair 21 years after self-imposed retirement, that fascination for the mentally ill continues. Alia Bhatt’s first line is something like a screechy, “I’m crazy.” Sanjay Dutt’s introduction borders on lunacy as he ‘sees’ his dead wife Pooja, talks to her and tries to join her up there. Inevitably, Alia’s and Sanjay’s first meeting is in a hospital for the unstable. With both refusing treatment for different reasons.
Parents under the spell of a godman who’s crazier than his disciples, a boyfriend who shakes under substance abuse, walks into jail for murder and walks out a free man months later, and a wicked stepmother straight out of an outdated TV serial with red smeared across her forehead, are further additions to the parade of the edgy.
With a stereotypical stepmother, a young girl who only looks on as her boyfriend or her benefactor take on the villains and a dead wife who speaks to her husband, don’t give substance to the gender in any part of the film.
‘Tumse hi’, ‘Ishq kamaal’ and the melodious ‘Hum tere bin kahin reh nahi paate’ from the original Sadak make it a listenable experience although it’s a heard-before sound.
For story and screenplay, imagine a 70s’ nightmare with a fake baba, a henchman not-so-subtly called Haathkaata because he cut off his hand as an offering to the godman, a 20-year-old wanting to visit Kailash before turning 21 and before she’s bumped off by the wicked parent and the godman, ancient scenes like calling up on a landline where somebody purportedly evil listens on the extension and sets from an antique Ramsay film.
You wake up from that nightmare only to ask, ‘Why, oh why Mahesh Bhatt, did you return to direct this one?’ Astonishingly, he even flicks the ‘palms meeting on either side of the glass door’ scene from Aashiqui 2 for the romance between Aryaa (Alia) and Vishal (Aditya Roy Kapur).
Sadly, the man who once wrenched such passionate performances from Shabana Azmi, Smita Patil, Anupam Kher and a host of other actors makes even the normally restrained Alia Bhatt exaggerate her dialogues like she’s doing theatre. Sanjay Dutt, an actor known for action, is lost as the lovelorn taxi driver and saviour. Makarand Deshpande is unwittingly comical when he’s supposed to be maniacal. Aditya Roy Kapur generally looks like he’s woken up from the Aashiqui 2 set.
Ultimately, it’s only Kumbhkaran the pet owl who’s memorable. But scowl, even he flies away inexplicably from this unserviceable sadak.