A film-maker always opts for a story he believes in. For, it's always better to be convinced yourself before you convince the worldwide audience. But what might appeal to a storyteller, may not necessarily appeal to the viewer. That's precisely the problem with BLUFFMASTER!, directed by Rohan Sippy.
If Rohan's debut vehicle KUCH NAA KAHO embarked on a path that had been traveled time and again in Bollywood and, to put it bluntly, wasn't inventive at all, he decides to get bold in his second outing BLUFFMASTER!. Taking inspiration from the Big B-Shashi Kapoor starrer DO AUR DO PANCH, BLUFFMASTER! talks of conmen and their con acts. Also -- this is a coincidence -- BLUFFMASTER! is the third film that travels this path this year, the first two being BUNTY AUR BABLI and EK KHILADI EK HASEENA.
Visually and technically, BLUFFMASTER! is amongst the slick flicks to come out of Bollywood in recent times. The film has an interesting story to tell as well, but the screenplay and its execution aren't the type that would appeal to the audiences from East to West, from North to South.
Of course, the days of universal acceptance -- for a story as also a film -- are as good as over. But BLUFFMASTER! is more of an experiment; it charters a path that a majority of audience would find difficult to absorb. Especially the climax... but more on that later.
At best, BLUFFMASTER! might appeal to a tiny section of moviegoers that has an appetite for hatke films. For the wide majority, who are used to the staple diet of masala entertainers, it's like serving a Russian dish to lovers of Indian vegetarian thali.
Roy [Abhishek Bachchan] is a conman out of choice. The sole person he tries to be honest with is his girlfriend Simmi [Priyanka Chopra]. However, Roy hasn't really had the courage to tell her the truth about himself. But when his past catches up with him, she cannot forgive him for the deceit their relationship is built on. She walks out on him.
Dittu [Ritesh Deshmukh] enters the picture here. He is the counterpoint to everything that Roy is -- as frantic as Roy is calm, as dumb as Roy is smart, as messy and untidy as Roy is smooth. They have only one thing in common: Dittu is a conman too. At least he thinks of himself as one. In Roy's book, he's an embarrassment.
To take his mind off Simmi, Roy agrees to teach Dittu the rules of the game. But he soon realizes that he doesn't have much time on hand: He has brain tumor. Suddenly, Roy, who prides himself on being able to cheat anyone and anything, is pushed into a corner from where there is no exit.
Roy is ready to take on his final 'act': To teach Chandru [Nana Patekar] the lesson of a lifetime. Chandru is a shady character who owns a hotel. Roy and Dittu embark on a new journeyï¿½
BLUFFMASTER! is akin to the sensex -- it has its shares of highs and lows all through those two hours. Amongst the highs are a few individualistic sequences, which include the con jobs: Abhishek robbing Tinnu Anand, then duping Hussain Shaikh in the dance bar, Abhishek and Ritesh's first encounter in the lift, the credit card sequence, Nana's introduction when a visitor's car bangs his car, the sequence at Maratha Mandir movie hall.
Also, with snazzy song picturization [especially the final track on rolling titles] as also a generous sprinkler of witty one-liners, you tend to feel elated.
But, unfortunately, a handful of individualistic sequences cannot really offset the lows that the enterprise also has in abundance. First and foremost, the romantic track that's juxtaposed in the screenplay is completely lifeless. In fact, the film slows down completely when Abhishek tries to woo Priyanka, but she stands adamant.
Moreover, the portions involving Boman Irani and Abhishek aren't electrifying either. But it's the climax, which is a complete downer. The SIXTH SENSE kind of an ending is too hard to absorb for Indian sensibilities. Without wanting to give away the suspense, all I'd like to say is that the climax is more of an anti-climax. Just when you thought that you were having a smooth ride, a speed breaker shakes you completely. That's precisely what the climax does in BLUFFMASTER!. Clearly, the writer has bluffed the viewer here.
When compared to his directorial debut, Rohan Sippy shows vast improvement as a storyteller. He has handled portions of the film well, but it's the subject matter that lets him down. The choice of the subject as also the screenplay [Shridhar Raghavan] has its limitations. It caters only to a miniscule audience; not all multiplex-going audience would also take to it. For the masses, the hoi polloi, the aam junta, it's one big disappointment!
The music is funky, with the well-publicized 'Sabse Bada Rupaiya' standing out above the rest [choreography: Bosco-Caesar]. Even the track on the end titles is first-rate, mainly its picturization [Farah Khan]. Himman Dhamija's cinematography is mesmerizing. The skyline of Mumbai has never looked so enticing and alluring. Dialogues [Rajat Aroraa and Shridhar Raghavan] are fantastic. The styling [Aki Narula] deserves special marks.
Abhishek Bachchan excels in a role that demands a powerful performer. The actor carries off the part of a suave conman with style. Nana Patekar leaves you spellbound. He infuses life in the narrative with his sheer presence. Priyanka Chopra does an honest job. Ritesh Deshmukh is first-rate, a complete brat. The youngster is only maturing with every release. Boman Irani is sincere.
On the whole, BLUFFMASTER! is too western a film for the Indian masses to absorb/soak up. Hence, its appeal would be restricted to the multiplexes of metros mainly. But even the multiplex-going audience will not take to it whole-heartedly. At the box-office, the film just doesn't have the power to sustain. Disappointing!