The film is titled after the central protagonist of the film—detective Samrat Tilakdhari (Rajeev Khandelwal). His personality is supposed to drive the film, much like Robert Downey Jr in the Sherlock Holmes series.
The inspirations are obvious, right from memorable scenes of the original, down to the hairstyle (that shock of hair on his head adding inches to his height).
As far as whodunits go, the film has all the cliched prerequisites – a sprawling haveli, a pretty girl in trouble, a murder, the super-smart detective and several red herrings. Samrat, a well-known sleuth, is approached by a wealthy girl (Madalsa Sharma). She talks about her mansion where the plants and animals are mysteriously dying. Her family believes the spirit of their old gardener (who they had fired), is haunting their place. Some people have also claimed to see a ghostly figure in the garden.
Samrat meets the family that includes a disturbed girl who is undergoing psychiatric treatment. While some family members welcome him, others are cynical.
And then, then at a party, the family patriarch is murdered. A second murder is discovered the next day. The will to the patriarch’s wealth throws up several surprises.
Things get murkier, and till this point, the film remains somewhat absorbing. It’s pretty much downhill from there. For a murder mystery the pace is too uneven and hesitant.
There are the tired old techniques like cutting to a suspenseful development in the middle of a party song, the detective recreating the scene of action, deciphering hidden messages (the childish clue is the letter after the one in the message, don’t snigger), and making elaborate diagrams with all the family member’s photos (you’ve seen that in a dozen Hollywood films). All this leads to the finale, which is unbelievably predictable.
Director Kaushik Ghatak relies on Samrat’s character as the main draw. You want to like this character but he is just too pat. He talks a LOT and very fast, mostly to himself, often referring to himself in the third person.
Built up to a point where the character is bound to disappoint, we are told that his seventh sense is called Samrat-ism; and that he is also known as STD (sharp, teekhi drishti). This is told to us by his goofy assistant Chakradhar (Gopal Dutt) who has been given zero charm or quirk (especially since their intention appears to be modeling the character after Watson).
The film has a few interesting dialogues, but is otherwise a melange of lame lines like, 'Jahan se nature khatam hota hai, supernatural shuru hota hai.” The attempt at humour (including a girl who speaks wrong English) grates on your nerves, only outdone by the unconvincing romance.
Rajeev Khandelwal is a fine actor and he has made some interesting film choices in the past. Here, he plays Samrat by the book, unlike his other more nuanced performances.
This is a film that could have looked interesting in script-form, but its execution lacks originality and panache.
Perhaps we need to create our original detective characters that don’t suffer from the Sherlock hangover. We’re going to have quite a few detective stories coming this year. Let’s see how they fare.
Rating: Two stars