Game: A Review

Game – Dir: Abhinay Deo; *ing: Abhishek Bachchan, Kangana Ranaut, Boman Irani, Anupam Kher, Jimmy Shergill, Shahana Goswami, Sarah Jane Dias

It’s that time of year again folks, when Bollywood goes off its meds and proceeds to display alarming signs of dissociative identity disorder; it’s the same unfortunate syndrome responsible for films like DhoomKidnap, and Luck in the past, and when it strikes, the Hindi movie, with a look of petulant disdain, distances itself from its endearingly unique ‘desi’ness, puts on a blonde wig and haughtily demands to be addressed as Lady Pamela, if you please. In a manner of speaking of course. But it’s a very real affliction, and its main and most recognizable symptom is an inexplicable and childishly obsessive yearning to be a slick Hollywood thriller rather than a masala stir fry. And you know it well and know the signs – a smorgasbord of exotic foreign locales, swooping aerial shots galore, pretty women looking perpetually pensive, the obligatory cabaret number, and a stunning array of designer eyewear. All are featured prominently in Game, the latest in the long, proud tradition of schizoid Indian cinema in angrez sheep’s clothing.

Reclusive billionaire Kabir Malhotra (Kher) invites four troubled individuals to his secluded Greek island of Samos: O.P.Ramsay (Irani) a corrupt politician from Thailand, Vikram Kapoor (Shergill) a film star with a dirty secret, Tisha Khanna (Goswami) an expat with a drinking problem, and Neil Menon (Bachchan) a casino owner from Turkey seeking to escape a shakedown from a bunch of gangsters. As the four reach the destination, Malhotra declares to his secretary, “Now the game begins.” Yeah, except that it doesn’t because the old man has croaked by next morning so he doesn’t really get a turn. But not before revealing to the three men that he has the dirt on each of them, all involving the death of his daughter Maya (Dias), and that Tisha is Maya’s fraternal twin – his other long lost daughter. Is it suicide? Is it murder? Is that even a question? Agent Sia (Ranaut) doesn’t seem to think so. She works for something called the International Vigilance Squad (so going by the name, something like INTERPOL except the IVS spots an offence and then what? Stands back and wags one finger at the perpetrator while dialing for the police with the other?), and decides that Neil, possibly because he’s the hottest one of the three, is the prime suspect and proceeds to chase him across the globe, while he, in turn, offers up just desserts to the other two men for their part in Maya’s death after it is revealed through flashbacks that he was in love with her. Then there is the matter of Malhotra’s missing brother… Yes, it seems the filmmaker wanted to include a greater number of twists and turns than a soap opera because if there’s one thing that soap operas really need it’s more convoluted plots (picture a ‘tongue-out smiley right about here).

Game suffers from essentially the same issues that other wannabe thrillers have suffered from – they are concentrating so hard on being slick that they forget to be fun, and that is a lethal flaw. The Bourne films were dramatic and serious in tone but no one can accuse them of being not entertaining. Game, and the others before it, despite the snazzy cinematography and hopped-up chase and fight sequences, are dull as dullsville. Not only is Game strangely humourless (apart from a few instances of a valiant effort from Bachchan), the machinations of the plot actually (and ironically) serve to make it terribly uninvolving. Plot twists need to be credible enough to dazzle, not to make one go ‘Puh-lease!’, and that’s the major issue here; Game is not necessarily a ‘bad’ film, it just leaves with you with a feeling of ‘Meh.’

The next time Bollywood gets the urge to scratch that slick thriller itch, one would sincerely recommend that they revisit and learn from great homegrown fare, like Vijay Anand’s Teesri Manzil, Shakti Samanta’s An Evening in Paris, or Chandra Barot’s classic Don, instead of trying to be more American than Obama. Oh hang on a sec…

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