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'Phantom' review: This story deserved a better film

'Phantom' review: This story deserved a better film

Source: Sify

By: Sonia Chopra

Thursday 27 August 2015

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Movie Title

Phantom

Director

Kabir Khan

Star Cast

Saif Ali Khan, Katrina Kaif, Rajesh Tailang

The cool-sounding title is a reference to the lead character Daniyal Khan (Saif), who, weare told, is like a shadow as he has no paperwork to his name ("he's not even onTwitter!" a character exclaims), and everyone thinks he's dead.

That makes him perfect for a covert operation by the Indian RAW (Research andAnalysis Wing), naturally not sanctioned by the government, but a risk undertaken by afew good men of the organization.

Which is fine, except this Phantom is quickly exposed by the enemy, who merrily tracehis background down to his estranged family within a few days, using amateur sleuthingskills. So much for naming the film Phantom, eh?

It's also quite funny how folks in this film get convinced to do exactly what they don'twant to in a hearbeat! Like: The RAW head pooh-poohs the absurd plan by an over-enthusiastic rookie- that of following America's example and murdering terrorists ontheir own turf. But he agrees ("let's do it"), after a heavy-duty dialogue, even giving hisnod to going ahead without official permission. Daniyal does not want to do the covertmission, but says yes after a heavy-duty dialogue. Nawaz (Katrina) does not want to getinvolved in this case, but agrees after a heavy-duty dialogue. A grieving mother doesnot want to get involved at all, but she too gives in after...you get the idea. When you'reshowing half-hearted attempts at changing someone's stance, the turnaround is goingto look improbable and fake.

As fake as Nawaz remembering how her "middle-class" insurance salesman fatherwould often take them to the Taj Mahal Hotel for tea and pastries. I don't even want toget into how far from reality and elitist this portion sounds. The 26/11 attack, then, isreduced to how this one character having her childhood memories crushed when thegrand hotel was attacked. Surely, they could have found a more solid, impactful storylinked to the ghastly attack?!

Then come the other annoying bits - going melodramatic and speaking about theattack using words like "beizzat" "hundustan ki mitti" and the one that actually got clapsout of the sleepy audience-"India chaahti hai insaaf!" The lack of subtlety and thesimplified to a fault 'Us vs. Them' politics is jarring. As jarring as the forever activebackground score, that doesn't offer even a second's respite.

The film zips and zaps through countries and timelines, but what's bothersome is thatnothing in the story moves you emotionally. We see one absurdity after the other. Likethe disclaimer in the beginning spoken like a mutual-funds ad; agents trailing theirtargets in the most conspicuous manner imaginable; terrorists falling for silly, obviouslies; and most crucially, a minister not suspecting the RAW of masterminding the plan,despite him rejecting the SAME plan presented to him by the organization just a whileago!

Saif Ali Khan, an otherwise charismatic and dependable actor, is on shaky ground here.Perhaps, it's the poorly sketched role, but the performance is lacking in conviction andimpact. Katrina Kaif looks resplendent as the mysterious Nawaz, and in my opinion,has the better, meatier role.

After Bajrangi Bhaijaan's super-hit status, there are even higher expectations from co-writer-director Kabir Khan. But one finds that only the film's adept cinematography,brilliant production design, and some gripping action scenes redeem the film to anextent.

The film, based on Hussain Zaidi's book Mumbai Avengers, moves you only towardsthe end, especially when you realize that 166 people died in the 26/11 terrorist attack,and that none of the terrorist masterminds have been punished.

Which is why, this monumental tragedy needed a throbbing, emotional film that couldexpress the collective nation's angst. It's disappointing indeed to see a film with such apassionate story, turn out this bland and lackluster!

Rating: 1.5 stars