Dhamaka Movie Review: Kartik Aaryan Delivers An Intense Performance

Dhamaka Streaming On Netflix

Story: Once a top news anchor on prime time TV, Arjun Pathak (Kartik Aaryan) gets demoted to radio. He views a mysterious phone call from a bomber as a sliver of opportunity to reclaim his lost glory. The bomber threatens to blow up the Bandra–Worli Sea Link unless his demands are met. With lives at stake, does Arjun salvage his dwindling career or the people held hostage on the bridge?

Review: Can a journalist be trusted? Does he/she have any conscience? Remake of Korean film ‘The Terror Live’, Dhamaka is a taut hostage thriller that critiques media and unethical journalism practices. It delves into a raging issue that’s most relevant now than ever — the business of breaking news. We tend to prioritise sensationalism over substance, money over ethics, quantity over quality and success over humanity. News is manufactured and generated. All’s fair in the TRP game? A shrewd opportunist, Arjun is compelled to rethink his ideals and what he truly stands for, as he watches the mayhem around him in horror.

The film unfolds over the course of a single morning within the confines of a single room. A storytelling technique we most recently witnessed in Jake Gyllenhaal’s ‘The Guilty’. The fact that this entire film was shot within 11 days during lockdown is commendable. The plot focusses on Arjun, as he tries to track down the mysterious caller and keep him from causing more explosions on the sea link. The terrorist (as they refer to the caller) negotiates with Pathak on two conditions — If he broadcasts their live interaction, his channel should pay him a hefty sum. Call it ‘exclusivity fees’ if you may. He also demands that the government apologise for the loss of three construction workers. Arjun must tread carefully as his estranged reporter wife (Mrunal Thakur in a cameo) and sold her soul to the devil boss (Amruta Subhash) are also involved in this chaos. Arjun must make some hard choices while racing against time.

Dhamaka is thrilling enough to keep you engaged but you don’t feel invested in its characters emotionally. Lack of restraint, nuances in writing and execution does more harm than good. 90’s loud, dramatic lines find their way into the script. Read, ‘Hum news bechte hai, news business hai, anchor actor hai, audience ko drama chahiye.” Every negative emotion is spelt out to forcefeed an impact and play to the gallery. ‘Car geeri hai paani mein, chalo sad music badhao’, tells a producer to her sound assistant. However, the sly viewer manipulation doesn’t work when things are made a bit too obvious. Stereotypes like media people smoking at any given opportunity stick out like a sore thumb. Madhvani, now skilled at making hostage-negotiator thrillers, manages to transport you to a trapped environment, nonetheless.

The premise is interesting and Dhamaka is a one-man show in terms of performance. Amruta Subhash and Vikas Kumar are effective but it is Kartik who takes us by surprise. An unusual choice for a role as demanding as this, he pushes himself like never before. His eyes may not speak as loudly as they should but he projects a sense of urgency and unrest that matters. His initial self-awareness and inhibitions on camera vanish as the film progresses. That’s when he truly comes into his own. Kartik Aaryan is no longer just the guy next door with a toothy smile, who mouths monologues. He proves he can do much more and perhaps, get a haircut, too! Definitely needs one.

Dhamaka may not be explosive enough to change the narrative but, it is engaging. It also dares to remind the media why they are called the fourth pillar of democracy.

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