Cast: Sunny Deol, Karan Kapadia, Ishita Dutta, Jameel Khan, Karanveer Sharma
Director: Behzad Khambata
Not until the end of the 111-minute film did I get to know what the title of the film Blank really meant. And, once I was made to put two and two together to come up with a plausible explanation for such a name for a film, I tried hard to connect various threads and loose ends to justify the film’s title. Needless to add, I was, and still am, “blank” but would rather go with co-writer director Behzad Khambata and his team of writers Pranav Adarsh and Pradeep Atluri (and Radhika Anand as the dialogue writer)to rationalise Blank as an appropriate headliner for a film based on terrorism.
One has experienced mostly that if it’s a star kid making his or her film debut, there is a grand launch followed by a series of interviews to film glossies and television channels. The almost forgotten sister of Dimple Kapadia, Simple Kapadia may not have made it big as an actress but was fairly successful as a dress designer. Her untimely death too, is virtually unknown to the filmgoers of today. Hence, quite understandably, when her son, Karan Kapadia, makes his screen debut in the lead, it doesn’t quite cause a stir.
Thankfully for Kapadia, aunt Dimple and family friend Sunny Deol came to his rescue and took the trouble of taking charge and presenting the film.
Whether that proves to be a sensible decision or not, only time will tell.
The film starts with some elements that have become mandatory in any thriller: a tension-filled moment when a young man is tied in a godforsaken barren place with a firing sniper squad targeting their guns to shoot him; he is trying hard to extricate himself from the wires around his wrists; a senior police officer is holding his rifle and is just about to do the needful when he gets a call. The young man is Haneef (Kapadia) who must have done something terribly anti-national to get subjected to this kind of treatment. Before one begins to wonder the whats and whys of such a beginning, one gets the drift — a suicide bomber claims to have lost his memory but has a bomb attached to his heart, which is connected to many other bombs, and if it goes off, would annihilate many. Now it is up to the police officers to prevent this bomb from taking innocent lives.
The story then lets us into past incidents as a few flashes of incidents try to piece together incidents and Haneef is taken to a hospital after a road accident. A horrified doctor discovers a bomb connected to Haneef’s chest, and decides to inform the police. As expected, the Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) chief S.S. Dewan (Sunny Deol) springs into action as Haneef is suspected to be a suicide bomber and associated with other conspirators comprising a larger network. Dewan, who is an honest officer and spares not even his son when it comes to following procedures, takes it upon himself to delve deep into the mind of the ticking time bomb, and in an interrogation, questions Haneef. He is unable to extract any information as Haneef draws a blank, and says that he cannot recall anything due to his partial memory loss. All that he has recollection of is the haunting visuals of his childhood and his neighbourhood in flames, his father shouting out to him to move to a safe corner, and no help coming from the police even as he continues to dial their number as per his father’s last words. The unforgettable sight of his father getting killed right before his eyes is a trauma he has not been able to shake off.
Ah! That is what I probably missed, or refused to get a hang of then. But then, that moment is a rare fleeting less than a one-minute interaction that one is most likely to miss if one looks down for more popcorn in the dark.
In the film’s disclaimer, Blank promises to be fair with no intentions of targeting any religious community, but its objectives don’t look too noble in this hate-filled angst-ridden age. The chief terrorist, Maqsud (Jameel Khan), heads Tehreer-e-Hind and indoctrinates young boys in the name of “Jihad” — is an old ploy to categorise a community to a set of so-called values.
A sudden twist that suggests Haneef’s backstory has a childhood girlfriend Husna (Ishita Dutta), who is one of Dewan’s most trusted aides, has been unnecessarily brought in to possibly make Haneef look a little human. Deol probably took the offer to act in the film on friend Dimple Kapadia’s request but cannot refrain from raising his decibel levels — that would straight away take you back to his “sunnier” days of the 1990s.
As for Karan, while I am glad he chose a film that didn’t give him the standard fare and a chance to sing and dance, he doesn’t seem to have it in him even if he had enough meat to chew on. But who knows, he could surprise us with his second in a role that would probably make him emote too?