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Dhamaka Review – Skewed Tale of Live TV Lacks Spark, Spirit, Spunk

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To a broadcast journalist’s eye the trailer for the 2021 ‘Dhamaka’ didn’t seem impressive enough. However, it managed to pique my interest a little, so I chose to stream the film on Netflix, telling myself ‘don’t be too cynical’. Directed by Ram Madhvani, the film is an adaptation of the 2013 Korean movie ‘The Terror Live’.

The movie starts with happy snippets of a married journalist couple Arjun Pathak (Kartik Aaryan) and Soumya Mehra Pathak (Mrunal Thakur), told through ‘memories’ on a social media app. It’s done well, and had me smiling. Promising start indeed. We are informed that Arjun was an award-winning news anchor of sorts, but was demoted to being a radio-jockey by his firm. His marriage with Soumya hits rock-bottom too and the two are getting a divorce. But Arjun smells a shot at redemption when he receives a call during his radio show. The caller threatens to blow up the Mumbai sea-link and follows up on his word. Instead of alerting the cops, Arjun promptly calls up his former TV boss, strikes a bargain for his exclusive call with the terrorist. What happens next forms the rest of the plot.

Unfortunately, the plot loses steam after the intriguing first 15 minutes. Ram Madhvani isn’t able to conjure up the madness of a real newsroom. There just isn’t enough tension for the viewer to be at the edge of their seat and the story is muddled with deliberate emotional scenes that don’t feel legitimate. Amruta Subhash plays Ankita Malaskar, the ruthless tv boss/editor, who wants to beat all competitors with their exclusive, she does a better job than Kartik Aryan.

One of the biggest problem with the film is the inconsistent characterization of Arjun Pathak, one one hand he is shown as an unscrupulous journalist, who immediately sniffs up a chance at climbing the career ladder; yet minutes later, when is on a call with the terrorist, he starts sniffling like a sad puppy when the man who just blew up a bridge recalls his sob-story of how hard life can be for a poor construction worker. What was supposed to be an emotional scene made me laugh out loud at the ridiculousness at it all. Dudes! – decide if you want your lead journalist to be a spineless vulture or a hardened professional with a heart of gold. The confusing plot-points are annoying and laughable. Yes, a character can be grey, somewhere between good and evil, but Kartik Aaryan fails to pull it off. “I CAN’T DO THIS” Aaryan’s Arjun screams at one point in the second-half, where he finds it difficult to go on with the live broadcast, and the funny thing is – he isn’t able to act out the emotionally turbulent scene either. It’s double irony and unwittingly funny. “He really cannot do this” I chuckled.

A signification chunk of the movie depicts live negotiations with the terrorist, and it’s vexatious and not in the least bit engrossing. There’s some boring/idiotic cross television banter, where two anchors on different news channels are talking to each other, washing their dirty linen in public. There are a lot of other movies out there who’ve done a better job of bashing the media, ‘Dhamaka’ however has no spark to it. Even though visually, the film looks pretty believable, the VFX of the blasts look authentic enough. The makers also get a lot of the nuances of doing live tv quite right, including how viewership oriented producers can be, although it’s all exaggerated a little too much. Which is fine, exaggeration is fun in films, but at least make it entertaining.

As the climax approaches, things only get tedious, ridiculous, even though what seemed like a big plot-hole (the identity of the caller) is explained in the end, and even though it’s not very convincing, one can roll with it. But holy shit, the ending is just disappointing AF – “what a pointless film!” I screamed as the end credits rolled in.

‘Dhamaka’ is too bloody long, could’ve been sharper, and might have even seemed brilliant if some other actor had been cast for the lead role.

It’s a 5/10 from me. You can stream it on Netflix.

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