Movie review 'Phantom': The ghost who must take a walk
Deccan Chronicle| suparna sharma
Phantom’s plot has not been plucked out of thin air
Cast: Saif Ali Khan, Katrina Kaif, Shahnawaz Pradhan, Mohammed Zeeshan Ayyub, Sabyasachi Chakrabarty, Sohaila Kapur, Rajesh Tailang
Director: Kabir Khan
Rating: 1.5 stars
So, for some reason, 2015 is the year of retribution, the year of fantasy revenge. And it’s all linked to 26/11. In Bollywood and in all tracks of talks. It’s not for some reason. There’s a very real reason, actually. You see, since last year, when lallu liberals were shown Babaji ka thullu by all those 56-inch chest-wallas, all the macho-macho men of our country started imagining that even if their chest be not 56 inch, their delusions certainly were.
But sachchi baat is that this is not entirely the fault of our desi machos. Obamaji started all this ghar-mein-ghus-ke-marenge trend. Operation Neptune Spear ke baad most machos on this side of LoC have been harbouring illusions of doing same to same to avenge our own moment of collective shame. That’s why first Neeraj Pandey’s Baby starring Akshay Kumar took out terrorist mastermind Bilal and Maulana in Dubai, and now Kabir Khan’s Phantom is very busy taking out Lashkar-e-Tayyaba’s many, many operatives all over the world.
Here again the plan is hatched and handled by officials of R&AW in Delhi, but it’s all thanks to Samit Mishra (Mohammed Zeeshan Ayyub), the man R&AW is privileged to get on deputation from NTRO (National Technical Research Organisation). Prior to the arrival of the passionate one, R&AW officials were dozing on their desks. Samit is like Chota Bheem, I mean Chota Obama. And it’s from his brain that brilliant and audacious ideas pop out.
R&AW chief Roy (Sabyasachi Chakrabarty) thinks him staggeringly stupid when Samit suggests that "sir, we should, you know, just kill them all, all our enemies, all those responsible for 26/11, one by one, without telling the sarkar. Cricket kutti is not working sir. It’s not putting enough pressure on Pakistan to mend its ways. Come on sir, 10 men insulted and humiliated 100 crore Bharatiya people. We should, like, really do something".
Hmmmm... The chief takes some time but comes around to the view that India’s external intelligence agency going rogue is what serves India’s interest best. But oh! Only a real pagal will carry out this mission, because it’s a suicide mission. Soon, after some file and phone patkoing, Samit finds Phantom — a man who doesn’t exist on paper. Wah! Samit is on deputation to R&AW. Imagine if he was R&AW’s very own, exclusively theirs. Tab toh we would have had board meetings with D Company and LeT every fortnight, with Mossad guys serving chai and pakode and the CIA assigned to arrange bouquets and folders.
They find him. The pagal. And it doesn’t take long to convince Daniyal Khan (Saif Ali Khan) because he’s been living in Kailash Parvat or thereabouts to sulk over a sad, humiliating story about wrongful court martial, following which his papa has been pakki kutti with him. Daniyal needs to do this, for that izzat ka salute from his uniformed colleagues and for papa dear to say, "Achcha, kutti cancel. Pakki abba." He agrees to give 26/11 ka jawab. Daniyal’s first stop is London where he locates his first victim with the help of cutie pie Nawaz Mistry (Katrina Kaif) who works for Dark Water, a bad-bad, mercenary company. But she’s herself a good girl. Or not. Doesn’t matter. She’s damn cute in those flowing tresses and long skirts.
The victim is a man with 26 passports who gets taken care of quite easily, courtesy our desi killer spy’s deep insight into the psyche of chain smokers. Next up is Chicago where Daniyal, posing as Jules Regardo from India, feigns road rage, gets arrested, does potty and again, with the help of Nawaz, does David Coleman Headley’s full satyanaash, that too while he is nangu-pangu. Here I paused and thought, oh-o. Poor Mumbai Police! They haven’t yet managed to interrogate Headley via video-conference, and now he’s gone. Again thanks to Nawaz, Daniyal is in Syria, then Beirut for a brief stopover to show us two things: some real grungy action in dust and much firing; and how international he is because he’s operating in the midst of all manner of militants.
But there’s one problem. It’s all fake fakery and yet the film and its hero and heroine keep their lips pursed in solemn seriousness, making the whole affair dull rather than fun. Some measure of irony would have helped. But it’s not there only. Soon they are in Pakistan where Daniyal is to take out two people — Haaris Sayeed of Lashkar and Umavi, both 26/11 accused. One goes dead with the help of Amina Bi (Sohaila Kapur) and the other at the expense of poor and sweet Shehzaad who really was the film’s best actor. Daniyal Khan is no ghost who walks. He’s more like a ghost who should take a walk. A stroll, perhaps, to clear his head about what he’s up to.
First toh he is always frowning and squinting hard at all things hostile to his desh’s health as if he have Shiva’s third eye and they be Kama who go sizzzzzzzle in two minutes. And then, the RDX he plants to kill India’s Enemy No. 1 or 2 or whatever would be laughed at by the bijli bomb you and I phodo on Diwali. The next time Bollywood rolls out a melodrama with someone called Phantom, could it make sure that he be in a purple body-hugging suit, stripy chaddies and be living in a skull cave with Devil, hero and Diana Palmer. Nahin toh we’ll mark you with our skull angoothis.
Yaar, abhi-abhi toh we’ve finished fawning over Kabir Khan for Bajrangi Bhaijaan and now this! Kyun bhai Kabir? Kya hua? Eidi toh di thi humne. Sadly, Phantom’s plot has not been plucked out of thin air. Many worthies of the Indian armed forces, intelligence agencies, and other male-mostly organisations are besotted by their collective fantasies about entering another country and taking out the enemy. They keep saying, "If only the government would say yes or just look the other way, we’ll show them."
Politicians of a certain hue feed this BS, with "hum brick-se-brick baja denge, Maa ka doodh and Naniji yaad diladenge..." That’s a load of crap. Efficiency and precision are as intrinsic to sarkari operations in India as, well, happy in-laws are to an Indian wedding. Chalo, I say. Do it. Fantasise. But do it in a fun, cool way. And without Saif. Because Saif is no action man.
Here he moves his head to convey tension amidst action like a hassled, worried rooster — jerky, sudden neck movements as if he’s posing for stills rather than acting in a motion picture. Not cool. Akshay Kumar in Baby did a much better job. Katrina has one real scene, one cool shot (landline ki toh aisi ki taisi), but hangs around much longer to hyperventilate while being grungy chic. She’s very good at it.