"Dragonfly, this is Ringmaster,” says a suited Saswata Chatterjee, cigarette in hand. This dash of suavity is better than anything else you might see in Dhaakad. Impeccably dressed, and operating from the shadows, Saswata is proof that it doesn’t take much to class up a spy action movie. He’s also proof that good ideas (or casting) matter little in a film hell-bent on destroying itself. From its first scene, Dhaakad gives hints of its repetitious nature. Ringmaster sends out Dragonfly—also Agent Agni (Kangana Ranaut)—on a rescue mission in Europe. We follow her from hotel room to basement to big fight and back to basement and room. The story, likewise, hurtles from Budapest to India and back to Budapest.
Japanese cinematographer Tetsuo Nagata (a veteran) fails to introduce any dynamism between scenes. A droning lullaby— linked to Agni’s childhood trauma—is repeated ad nauseam, including a scene where the villain plays it out on a piano. Urgh. The villain is Rudraveer (Arjun Rampal). Along with his partner, Rohini (Divya Dutta having a ball), he runs a global human trafficking ring from the coalmines of Bhopal. Agni, who admits forthwith that she has ‘bad memories of India’, is sent to root them out. There is some delicacy here: we begin with comedy as the stakes gradually rise.
The criminals have a long chain-of-command; it’s fun to see Agni stake them out one by one. Yet the smarter ‘spy’ ideas—a drone shaped like a dragonfly, a steroid-shooting watch—are soon abandoned for all-out brute force. After the interval, the film is a tangle of attacks, explosions and clamorous sound effects. An ambush on Rudraveer’s lair is especially noisy and chaotic. Director Razneesh ‘Razy’ Ghai ambitiously introduces multiple fighting styles—gunplay, fencing, hand-to-hand—but choreographs them without much variance or grace.
Kangana, looking much like herself in a succession of wigs, pulls off the action well, even if a ludicrous Kill Bill-style training montage lets her down. There is a mind-melting twist in the second half that even Ahmed Khan fans will scoff at. Action movies don’t have to be smart, but they must have some semblance to reality for us to feel the tension. Agni resuscitating after a deadly blow and strolling into a swish Budapest club as its lead singer is the opposite of that. Dhaakad, reassuringly, comes free of political overtones.
But the poor set design, monotonous locations and flat-to-caricaturish writing robs the film of any sense of time and place. As I write this, word is out that Dhaakad might be getting a sequel, with Kangana reprising her role (the film leaves ample scope for that). Meanwhile, Rohit Shetty has long teased a female entry in his cop universe. The fate of action franchises in India has already been sealed by the likes of Baaghi, Commando, Heropanti. If the underlying template stays the same, with more clunkiness wrapped up in scale, what difference does a female- led franchise make?
Cast: Kangana Ranaut, Arjun Rampal, Divya Dutta, Saswata Chatterjee, Sharid Hashmi
Director: Razneesh Ghai