Hacked follows the tried-and-tested formula of the stalker trope with a whole lot of tech stuff thrown in for good measure (half of which seems wildly implausible). The film, though largely overdone and melodramatic, does touch upon a relevant theme not explored enough in mainstream Hindi cinema. This theme is that of the Internet, and how you never really have your privacy once connected to the near-indispensable world wide web.
For a mostly predictable script that leaves many gaps in the narrative (a case in point is when our young-adult hacker, Vivek, decides to use his tech skills to make the protagonist’s life a living hell), it does speak of certain sordid realities in its own overcooked, stylised way. These social realities include the age-old question of why many men take rejection so badly, and why they become obsessive in their quest for unrealistic fantasies.
Hacked also does an okay job of portraying the 19-year-old Vivek in his full range of sociopathy. He begins by clicking photos of Sameera (Hina Khan), a female neighbour and friend, without her knowledge. But it is only after a one-night-stand with her goes awry (she regrets the drunken accident and tells him as much), does his already obsessive behaviour worsen. Whenever the script succeeds in doing a half-decent job, Rohan Shah plays Vivek pretty well. His overall creepiness and warped logic do come off quite believably. Sameera’s on-again/off-again movie-star boyfriend and her long-lost bestie with a perpetually melancholic face are mere caricatures, though. Even her story arcs with the aforementioned men are boring and utterly predictable.
The totally unrealistic aspects of the story relate almost entirely to Vivek’s plan of holding Sameera to ransom with his hacking prowess. First of all, even though Vivek is a rich kid living in swanky apartment complex (he lives with his grandmother while his parents are abroad) there is no way he could afford (I assume he gets a monthly allowance) to rent out a storage space and fit it with all the latest equipment for his illegal snooping. Moreover, how in the hell could he have hacked every camera of every single place Sameera visits? I get how he could have infiltrated her home (installing spy cams, bugging the place, and so on), hacked into her laptop and smartphone.
That is entirely plausible. But hacking into each and every CCTV camera of each and every café, restaurant and bar she goes to, would be an impossible task even for the country’s intelligence agencies. The story does make reference to the boy setting up the WiFi system in a café — so, that one place can make sense. But every other one is absolutely ridiculous.
It is clear that the film takes much inspiration from the Netflix Original, You, among other similar creations. It is perhaps too melodrama-heavy to be considered good (the musical score doesn’t do the film
any favours here, either). That being said, terming it unwatchable would be an incorrect assessment. Hina Khan does a decent job with the script she’s given. It would be unfair to fault her or Rohan Shah for the mediocre writing. Though it may not burst with originality, the film does empathise with women and their right to safety and privacy in the social media era.
As seen through Vivek’s perspective, Hacked points to an inconvenient truth — obsession and sexually-predatory behaviour among the male population (especially in India) is anything but uncommon. The primary message is to beware of what you’re willing to share on the Internet. Once information goes up on any platform, it can never really be erased for good, now can it?