Director: Abhinay Deo
Cast: Irrfan Khan, Kirti Kulhari, Arunoday Singh, Divya Dutta
Rating: 2/5 stars
Blackmail begins with a game of Pac-Man, Dev Kaushal (Irrfan Khan) at his office desk long after regulation time, eating away the dots with the kind of determination that is usually reserved for, in an office such as this one, last minute project deadlines. There are other things eating away at his life, like a marriage that is at the edge of ennui, his string of messages to his wife says the same thing, day after day, “Leaving office now”. No other communication with that contact on his phone. There are other forms of contacts that Dev maintains.
Like the ones with the photographs of the wives of his colleagues, lying on their desks, ignored, only for Dev to pin them up at opportune locations. Blackmail’s opening credits appear over calls to save water and paper, with onanistic performances behind closed doors and a dripping tap outside. Coitus Interruptus accurately describes Blackmail. It is in love with itself a little too much and thinks itself to be clever. But it involves just too much work for very little pleasure. Abhinay Deo does not want to go all the way in.
Soon after Dev discovers his wife Reena’s (Kirti Kulhari) extramarital affair, blackmails follow from one party to another. By the midpoint, the blackmails themselves begin to follow the transitive logic. How much thought has gone into this film is apparent in Omi Vaidya character’s name — because he plays Dev’s boss, he is Boss DK. And he has a picture frame of his wife right next to that of Donald Trump. There is even an American flag.
Deo frames some of the action and conversations against boards that scream the screwball pitch that he is aiming for — when the paramour exits, there is a Trespassers Will Be Prosecuted sign behind him. Dev and his colleague Anand, sit under the neon lights of a footwear brand whose motto is to chase success. The imploring Use Me of a public dustbin becomes a character. But nothing sticks. Nothing makes the material rise from its flaccid foundations. Divya Dutta appears a couple of times, the only actor enjoying the proceedings because she’s never spotted without alcohol in hand. Deo probably had 15 minutes here. With the proliferation of short films on various platforms, I wonder why he wanted to make a feature out of this one. There is even a headache-inducing gag on toilet paper throughout the film. Did the makers realise what they were making?