Starring Kartik Aaryan, Amruta Subhash, Mrunal Thakur
Directed by Ram Madhvani
Dhamaka is a stinging slap in the face of sponsored journalism where money and not the conscience, and certainly not the welfare of humanity, guides the television anchor to scream blatant lies. All is well as long as the lies sell. And sell everything for TRPs.
There is a defining moment in this tense tale of the teacher and the ‘taut’ where our conscience-stricken journalist-hero blurts out to his boss, “Yeh sach nahin hai.”
“Haan, yeh news hai,” the boss reminds Arjun.
The boss(fed into Arjun’s phone as ‘Ankita Boss’) is a hardnosed ruthless media vulture played with characteristic spunk by Amruta Subhash. She will do anything to get the TRPs rolling. Arjun Pathak, lately disgraced and demoted, is willing to play along when a vigilante/terrorist/reformer(we can label him what we want depending on which side of the blown-up bridge we standing on) named Raghuvir Mahata calls in at the news channel Bharosa 24/7 with information that could be a game-changer in the media’s relationship with the newsmaker, not to mention Arjun’s relationship with his conscience and also with his wife(Mrunal Thakur).
It all seems too compactly packaged initially, with all the ingredients of Arjun Pathak’s downfall lined in one line of vision. But then Ram Madhvani decides to turn it all around. And as Pathak’s world falls apart (like the bridge blown up by the faceless aam aadmi on the phone) we realize, nothing is as it ‘screams’.
Behind every voice of protest is an unacknowledged unread mythology of pain suffering and humiliation. As I heard Raghuvir Mahata’s rage vent itself viscerally into threats of unmitigated violence I thought of the innocent tribal who was tortured to death in police custody in the recent Tamil film Jai Bhim .What if Rajakannu in Jai Bhim had survived? Wouldn’t he be that voice threatening to blow up the city in Dhamaka?
Taking off as a terrorist-negotiator thriller, Ram Madhvani’s film moves into areas of storytelling where terrorism merges into opportunism and good intentions are regurgitated in a pukey mess. It is a powerful parable on injustice and discrimination delivered with brute force that spares us none of the violence that a situation of social inequality breeds and bleeds into a compromised nation.
Besides Kartik Aaryan the other heroes of this tactile thriller are Monisha Baldawa-Amita Karia’s editing and Manu Anand’s cinematography. These master-technicians put a dizzying spin to the out-of-control lives of neurotic characters, playing live on television.
The supporting performances specially by Amruta Subhash as the Boss and Soham Majumdar as the Voice, are bitch-perfect and pitch-perfect, respectively.
But it is Kartik Aaryan whose powerful performance holds the film together. His journey from a self-serving scumbag to a conscientious newshound is convincingly achieved by the young actor. This is his best performance to date, and one that puts him ahead of all competition. I see Kartik winning all the best-actor awards this year.
Dhamaka is one of Netflix India’s most hard-hitting films in recent times. There are many reasons why it must be seen. Besides being a thoroughly entertaining thriller it opens up wounds that never healed. They never will. Not in a society where the conscience is a luxury.