Bollywood has produced some wonderful suspense-thrillers in the past. WOH KAUN THI, TEESRI MANZIL, BEES SAAL BAAD, MERA SAAYA and GUMNAM remain etched in your memory for their innovative concepts as also the wholesome entertainment they had to offer.
Girish Dhamija, who has been associated with two well-crafted thrillers, RAAZ and KASOOR [in the capacity of the dialogue writer], also opts for a novel theme for his directorial debut, YAKEEN. While Dhamija gets a few things right in his first attempt at film-making, you cannot overlook the fact that the film has its share of loose ends.
YAKEEN borrows heavily from director Wolfgang Peterson's Hollywood flick SHATTERED [1991; starring Tom Berenger, Greta Scacchi, Bob Hoskins]. For the Indian moviegoer, the concept may not be entirely novel, since YEH VAADA RAHA [Rishi, Tina, Poonam] also spoke about medical wonders. Also, FACE/OFF [John Travolta, Nicolas Cage] continues to remain fresh thanks to its repeat telecasts on Indian television.
Keeping the inspirations aside, there's no denying that the first half of YAKEEN keeps you hooked to the proceedings, but the graph of the film slides downwards in the post-interval portions. The narrative suddenly gets slow, the turn of events aren't as captivating [except when the suspense in revealed] and the impact that a taut thriller ought to make is missing.
Nikhil [Arjun Rampal], a business tycoon settled in Himachal Pradesh, is married to Simar [Priyanka Chopra]. Though the marriage seems perfect, their relationship is devoid of that closeness which represents the ideal bonding.
Life takes a bizarre turn when their car plummets from a cliff. Nikhil is hospitalized, while Simar escapes unscathed with minor cuts and bruises.
The turbulent phase in their life draws Nikhil and Simar closer. Nikhil begins to reconstruct his life. At first, he relies on the care and guidance of his loving wife and business associates [Ankur Nayyar, Kim Sharma]. But confusion starts mounting with contrasting pictures of his past being painted by everyone around him, with strange flashes of memory coming to him from time to time. Nikhil starts experiencing some terrifying moments. His mental trauma increases when he starts suspecting Simar's fidelity.
Enlisting the help of a detective [Saurabh Shukla], Nikhil embarks on a dangerous journey to uncover the truth about himself. Delving deeper into an unpredictable maze, he is confronted with more and more unpleasant truthsï¿½
YAKEEN grabs your attention from the word 'Go'. The accident at the very start, the hospital sequences, the husband-wife relationship, the questions that continue to haunt Arjun, the needle of suspicion pointing towards Priyankaï¿½ there's so much happening in the first half of the enterprise.
Story-screenplay writer Vikram Bhatt and director Girish Dhamija disentangle the incidents with dexterity. The twists and turns in the plot keep the viewer engrossed all through the first hour. The story has meat, the pacing is just right, the songs have been incorporated only when the situations demand, the two lead performers act with utmost convictionï¿½ You're hooked!
But the sparks are missing in the post-interval portions. The narrative slows down considerably during the flashback portions. Also, the turn of events that lead to the expose aren't really captivating. The suspense does come as a jolt, but the narrative isn't entirely palatable.
A glaring flaw in the Hollywood version was that the main character retained the same voice all through, although they were two separate entities. In YAKEEN too, Arjun's voice has been used throughout and the unsuspecting viewer doesn't question it till the mystery is solved. Perhaps, the makers wanted to retain the suspense till the end, hence this cinematic liberty.
Director Girish Dhamija seems comfortable while attempting a suspense-thriller. YAKEEN may not be the most interesting film produced in the recent times, but it does hold your attention intermittently. Together with writer Vikram Bhatt, Dhamija spins a tale that's watchable in parts, but how one wishes the post-interval portions would've been as gripping.
Vikram Bhatt specializes in thrillers and it's pretty evident that as the writer of YAKEEN, he knows where to put the comas and full stops. But the post-interval portions give an impression that the writer hasn't worked as laboriously.
Take, for instance, Kim Sharma's characterization. She walks hand in hand with Arjun to add pieces to the jigsaw puzzle, but her exit appears so very sudden. Why is she suddenly eliminated? Sure, she wanted to reveal something vital to Arjun, but how does the culprit know that she's got some solid evidence on her hand? Ditto for the finale, when the cat is out of the bag. There's another major accident, the car falls off a cliff, but nothing happens to Arjun or the proof that he's hidden in the car. How come?
Himesh Reshammiya seems to stress on soulful tunes, instead of sound and fury and it's evident in this score as well. 'Meri Aankhon Mein Hai Tu' and 'Bhoolna Nahin' are tunes you'd want to hum when you hear them again.
Cinematography [Anushuman Mahaley] is eye-pleasing, with the visuals of Manali giving the film a distinct flavor. The chase sequence in the post-interval portions [Abbas Ali Moghul] is expertly executed. Editing [Kuldeep Mehan] could've been tighter in the second half. Visual effects [Biju D.] are tacky. The makeup of Arjun during the hospital sequences [Arunadetya Seal M] is realistic.
Cast in a complex role, Arjun Rampal delivers his best performance so far. The role would've lost its bearings had it been entrusted to an inferior actor, but Arjun sinks his teeth into it and emerges trumps. The actor portrays the gamut of emotions with aplomb and delivers a flawless performance. He is truly efficient in sequences when he starts suspecting his wife's fidelity in the first half. The shower sequence as also the intermission point display Arjun's range as an actor.
Priyanka Chopra is bound to win laurels yet again, after AITRAAZ. The actor has already started experimenting with roles and it shows in her choice of films. This role may've been unacceptable to a lot many actors who choose not to experiment with their goody-goody image, but Priyanka is an exception. First AITRAAZ and now YAKEEN, the actor is emerging as one of the finest talents in these fast-changing times.
Kim Sharma is effective in a brief role, although her exit cuts short her chances of proving her talent. Saurabh Shukla is excellent as the detective. Ankur Nayyar, as Kim's brother, is efficient. Anang Desai [Doctor] is alright. Sudhanshu Pandey is first-rate, handling his part with efficacy.
On the whole, YAKEEN could've been a taut edge of the seat thriller, which it isn't thanks to its not-too-happening post-interval portions. At the box-office, the film will face an uphill task due to two factors mainly: Lack of hype and a strong opposition this week [SARKAR].