Starring Mustafa, Kiara Advani, Ehsan Shanker, Ronit Roy, Dalip Tahil
Directed by Abbas-Mustan
Mustafa who is co-director Abbas Burmanwala’s son, pushes a lady to a steep fall. It is interesting to see the producer’s son picking to debut so darkly. Machine is a film about a nasty murky non-brainer of a hero (hence, Machine) who doesn’t think twice before snuffing out lives on his mentor’s order.
Not much thought has gone into the protagonist’s behaviour. Ditto the action. It’s a role that Shah Rukh Khan mythologized in Baazigar except for the fact that his cruel murders were perpetrated to avenge his father’s murder and mother’s humiliation.
Our cinema is all about loving one’s parents, remember? Ransh, the hero as played by debutant Mustafa in Machine, seems to love only himself. Don’t get fooled by all the sher-o-shayari he recites to the pretty heiress Sarah(Kiara Advani). This guy means business.
For a lengthy stretch of storytelling co-directors Abbas-Mustan seem to be heading nowhere. There is an elaborately staged motorcar race at the beginning of the eventful plot, and another at the climax. Abbas-Mustan always loves cars. Unlike Rohit Shetty they don’t blow them up. They’ve other things to blow up.
In-between the two accelerated events on the race-track (nicely shot, I have to give them that) everything that could possibly go wrong in a film, does. We witness characters who pop up as poor props for the anti-hero’s self-gratification. By the time he is into the second act of his murderous ambitions (with Dalip Tahil reprising his role from Baazigar) we are left gawking at the gaping holes in the plot wondering who on earth could think up such a story of revenge, except as form of revenge on the audience.
There are more inconsistencies in the storytelling than humanly permissible in an average screenplay. While debutant Mustafa has bravely chosen the antagonist’s role, another newcomer Ehsan Shanker plays the actual protagonist. Oddly Shanker is given a double role. One of him carely dies when the other shows up, to make sure we get ‘see’ sick.
In a film intended to launch a producer’s son it seems foolishly generous to let another newcomer—and that too one with severely limited talent and screen presence—take over a large chunk of the proceedings.
It would be hard to find even one redeeming quality in this mish-mash of Abbas-Mustan’s thriller instincts from the 1990s. The performances scream for attention. Even the habitually reliable Ronit Roy is here reduced to a cardboard cut-out shrieking revenge order like an impatient customer who’s had to wait too long for his pizza order.
Kiara Advani bears a passing resemblance to Madhuri Dixit and performs the emotional scenes earnestly. Given the acute scarcity of credibility in the plot, that’s no mean achievement. As for debutant Mustafa, we will have to wait for another occasion to see what he is capable of. This film gives the newcomer a distressingly dark and slippery ground to cover. He gropes blindly in the dark hoping to hit a bright patch eventually. Hope, as they say, fades.
The songs, usually so snazzy in Abbas-Mustan’s cinema are ‘hear’ a tone-deaf cacophony of the new and the retro. ‘Tu cheez badi hai mast mast’ from the hit 1990s’ film Mohra shows up at the fag-end like an appetizer served up when the meal is already over.
The Georgia locations are easy on the eyes, provided the camera rests at one place for more than 3 seconds.
In the second-half Abbas-Mustan’s favourite comic relief Johnny Lever shows up as a cop investigating a murder.
No comic relief is needed in Mustafa. I could hear laughter in the theatre even when Lever wasn’t around. From all the 7 people in the audience.