There's no harm in adapting an English film in Hindi. After all, every director has his/her way of interpreting a story. Moreover, there's a strong possibility that a wide section of desi audiences may not have watched the original/source, which means that the adapted version may come across as a novel experience.
After attempting original concepts with flourish [ZEHER, KALYUG, GANGSTER], Mahesh and Mukesh Bhatt's current outing THE KILLER borrows the essence from acclaimed director Michael Mann's Tom Cruise-Jamie Foxx thriller COLLATERAL . The story of a cabbie and a hit man and the series of murders that take place in one night haven't been witnessed on Hindi screen before. That, sure, makes for an interesting plot!
Besides an arresting plot, THE KILLER appeals, to a large extent, thanks to the chemistry between Emraan Hashmi and Irrfan Khan. In fact, the cat-and-mouse game they indulge in keeps you on the edge right till the penultimate reel. The sequences between the two actors are the mainstay of this enterprise.
Unlike COLLATERAL, which got dark and depressing at times, debutante directors Raksha Mistry and Hasnain Hyderabadwala have ensured that THE KILLER caters to the Indian tastes. The conversations between Emraan and Irrfan could've veered into a serious and gloomy alley, but thankfully turns out to be lively, interesting, smart and packed with wit and humor. The director duo strikes a fine balance between serious and funny, tense and comforting moments.
However, this shouldn't imply that THE KILLER is devoid of flaws. There are hiccups, but the fast pacing and crisp editing camouflage the flaws in the writing department. The impact in the end is what eventually matters, not the speed breakers on the way!
Nikhil [Emraan Hashmi] is a cabbie in Dubai; he doesn't shy from going that extra mile to earn those extra bucks. He plans to open a travel agency some day and settle with the woman of his dreams, Rhea [Nisha Kothari], a bar dancer by profession.
Nikhil's life takes a turn when Vikram [Irrfan Khan] hires his cab for the entire night. Vikram is no ordinary passenger. He is in Dubai with a mission -- to eliminate five people in the course of one single night. Unaware of Vikram's nefarious plans, Nikhil drives him around, drops him to a destination, picks him up and moves on to the next destination.
But Nikhil soon realizes that he has been trapped and has to find a way out of this misadventure. The more he tries to get out of it, the more Vikram traps him. Nikhil begs, pleads, argues, retaliates, schemes but to no avail as Vikram doesn't have intentions of letting him free till his mission is accomplished.
Slowly, Nikhil starts transforming himself into a personality that could counter-attack the man sitting on the rear seat.
THE KILLER catches your attention gradually. The initial portions between Emraan and Nisha may give an impression that it's one of those routine love stories one has witnessed unfailingly over the years. But the film changes tracks the moment Irrfan enters the scene and hires the cab. From thereon, it's an unexpected journey.
The drama intensifies when Irrfan commits the first murder, but it's the second murder [of underworld don Jabbar's henchman Musa] and the dead body's crash landing on Emraan's windshield that proves to be the turning point. The third murder, of a ghazal singer, is skillfully executed, while the intermission point [Irrfan murdering Emraan's friend when he's about to call the cops] is the right way to end the first half of this 14-reeler.
The post-interval portions are largely captivating. The sequence at the hospital, when Emraan and Irrfan call on Emraan's ailing mother [Bharti Achrekar], is interesting. But the sequence that deserves distinction marks is when Emraan lands up at the don's [Zakir Hussain] mansion and the lengthy dialogue that ensues thereafter. It's a brilliantly penned, executed and enacted sequence.
But the writing fumbles at places. For instance, when the CBI officer gets to know that the murderer has already headed towards a club to eliminate the fourth witness [an Arab], why doesn't he warn the witness on phone? Ditto for the fifth witness [Nisha Kothari]. Even the end, when Emraan rescues Nisha soon after her dance, looks like a typical Hindi film setting, with the hero arriving at the nick of time.
However, the end in the shopping mall, when Irrfan is keen to eliminate both Emraan and Nisha, is nail-biting. It may not be the most original culmination to the story, but it works because of the two actors, especially Irrfan's manic behavior.
As first-timers, Raksha and Hasnain's direction is commendable. The duo has handled a number of sequences with amazing maturity. Technically too, it's a superior product. But they can [and should] improvise upon an area which is the lifeline of every film: Screenplay.
Sajid-Wajid's music is pleasant, but definitely not in league with Bhatt brothers' earlier films like RAAZ, MURDER and GANGSTER. Yet, in all fairness, 'Teri Yaadon Mein' and 'Dil Ko Churaya Tune Sanam' are melodious creations. 'Abhi To Main Jawaan Hoon' caters to the hoi polloi; it's a raunchy track. Cinematography is first-rate. The lensman has captured the beautiful locales of Dubai with flourish. Dialogues, especially the banter between Emraan and Irrfan, are exceptional.
Emraan is adequate in the initial portions, but comes in form when he starts confronting Irrfan. He is admirable in the sequence with Zakir Hussain. Irrfan is splendid all through. The eccentric character has been portrayed with gusto by the actor. His dialogues, at places, will be greeted with a thunderous applause. Especially his breaking into the song 'Zara Saamne To Aao Chhaliye' in the mall [climax].
Nisha Kothari doesn't get a chance to display histrionics, but exhibits her anatomy nonetheless. She is sure to send the masses into raptures in the 'Abhi To Main Jawaan Hoon' track. Zakir Hussain is powerful in that single scene. Avtar Gill and Bharti Achrekar are satisfactory.
On the whole, THE KILLER is an absorbing fare that should appeal to lovers of thrillers. At the box-office, its moderate pricing coupled with decent merits should help the film sail safe.