Review: Blank is an amateurish actioner marked by a complete lack of smarts

Even enemies of the State need to shake a leg. Debutante Karan Kapadia plays one such terrorist, a concussion-prone novice whose heart just so happens to be connected to the electrodes of a bomb (“Uski dil ki dhadkan bomb ki battery hai – it’s a dead man’s switch,” we’re told); and in a film that’s clearly intended to shoehorn him into the inner echelons of Bollywood, this jig might well rank as the single most mortifying moment.

A hooded Akshay Kumar finds himself first on a boat and then on a chair, holding a walking stick of all things, before going on to shovel an entire fistful of mud onto our faces (I kid you not), while Kapadia scratches, sways, and pummels his chest in the name of dancing. They even share the same voice, though this is presumably because the budget wasn’t accommodative enough of a second singer.

Drawing a blank with ‘duty’

Rank amateurishness defines this film. S S Dewan, an ATS officer played by Sunny Deol, kicks things off with a homily worth inscribing on a T-shirt: “Terrorism ka koi chehra nahi nota – uska dharm sirf paisa. Aur hamara dharm, duty.”

Duty, as it turns out, is invoked on more than one occasion. “Duty nahi – laparwahi hui hai,” a policewoman chides a member of the coast guard when he fails to see a suspicious boat approach.

“Aap apni procedure follow kijiye. Main apni duty,” Dewan tells a colleague, one who happens to be no less than the director general of police herself.

The stakes are elevated to Singham-esque proportions soon enough, with cars flying left, right, and centre like Hot Wheels toys gone awry, but the men behind the sunglasses don’t quite match up.

“Roadways, railways, kya hai? Kuch samajh mein nahi aa raha hai,” a cop wonders after toying around with a map, while Deol takes it upon himself to teach us a thing or two in the art of subtle interrogation. “Tera target kya hai?” the ATS chief enquires of a captured sleeper agent, his tone so amiable that he might as well have been asking a software development interviewee about his career aspirations instead.

A doctor sees a blood-drenched victim and—for all his MBBS is worth—tells his nursing staff that they need to “stop the bleeding immediately”, while a terror accused strives to acquit himself of any wrongdoing with this priceless gem: “Kaisi training? Kaun sa bomb? I don’t think I could ever do something like this.”

Not much power in this punch

The sloppiness persists. Director Behzad Khambata occasionally manages to keep the proceedings engaging enough, employing jerky camera movements along with long takes to amp up the suspense during a couple of skillfully shot chase sequences, but these remain minor gimmicks in the larger scheme of things.

As for Deol, the actor stops short of explicitly referring to the girth of his biceps as he did back in Damini, but he manages to grunt, growl, and grimace his way through many a one-on-one battle—at one point, he even punches his fist repeatedly in tune to one of the film’s many (lacklustre) songs.

No machine gun is a match for his pistol, of course, and his primary nemesis, a ringleader named Maqsood, is a curious beast: if Hafiz Saeed and Osama bin Laden were ever to have a lovechild, this is what he would have looked like.

“Bade hokar kya banoge? Kaafiron ki jaan loge?” he beseeches a young audience—one that hasn’t exactly grown up listening to Grimm’s Fairy Tales—and his makes for the most unintentionally funny character of the lot. At one point, he holds up a finger without exactly saying anything (“Mera No. 1, McDowell’s” would be a fair guess) while, on the other side of the fence, Ishita Dutta’s cop plays Tic Tac Toe with a kid. A more befitting name for this movie would have been Zero Dark Tat*i.

Blank all the way

Blank is a film about burning systems to the ground that’s likelier to conflagrate careers instead. There’s something brutally ironical about the fact that Kapadia plays an amnesiac—given how he might well end up being a lost memory himself—and his is an abysmal, stone-faced performance.

Khambata might have hoped to offset the lack of a serviceable storyline by fishing in the murky waters of nepotism, but his endeavour remains a foolhardy one at best. One blank cannot fill another.

Rating: 1.5 out of 5

Shreehari H is a lover of films and an even greater lover of writing.

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