The conundrum with Thank God is that it is simply not content with entertaining the viewers, like Indra Kumar’s good-old Ishq or Dhamaal. Remember the ending of the hilarious Dhamaal that takes a curt turn toward sentimentality? All the emotional moments in Thank God feel as artificial and shoehorned as the ending of Dhamaal. Thank God carries a heavy prerogative to preach and trigger a contemplation about life, guilt, regrets, and relationships. While one certainly doesn’t hold any right to dictate the storytelling choices of filmmakers, it is hard not to pinpoint the loftiness of their ambitions when the desired emotional beats fail to land.
Thank God gets lost between comedy and melodrama, failing to realise either of these angles fully. There’s a lousy attempt at invoking discomfort at the close-up shot of a mango being consumed; the film tries to paint this act in a ‘disgusting’ light. Moments later, the same act is used to create an endearing moment. Now, the idea to use the same action for two contrasting reactions—discomfort and comfort—sounds interesting on paper but it translates to the screen with the energy of a tax lecture. This is one of the many such sequences that Thank God sincerely believes, make for wholesome storytelling. Unfortunately, it gets carried away by its intentions. Thank God, the film is just 120 minutes long, although it feels way longer with scenes stretching on and on.
Thank God tells the story of Ayaan Kapoor (Siddharth Malhotra), a greedy real-estate agent who bites the brunt of demonetisation. The film wants us to believe that life couldn’t be harder for the poor, bankrupt Ayaan who is on the verge of selling his posh bungalow to repay his debts. The writing’s naivety lies in its expectation of us to empathise with this unlikeable, unrelatable character, as he goes from black to white over the course of the story. Forging empathy with the protagonist is sacrosanct in such coming-of-age stories, and Thank God doesn’t give one good reason for us to care for the character, creating a coldness between us and Ayaan. We barely understand the gravity of his financial crisis or its emotional impact on him. Thank God, the film doesn’t kill too much time on the set-up.
So when he meets with a deadly road accident and is hanging between life and death, we don’t feel bad for him. Then enters Chitra Gupta aka CG (Ajay Devgn), who welcomes Ayaan’s soul to a computer-generated podium floating in space, and is filled with computer-generated humans. Ayaan has to play a game—one that tests his negative qualities like anger, lust and jealousy, to name a few—to prove that he is worthy of living. It is a delectable premise but the innate amusement in the concept is barely intact in the screenplay, which opts for the most generic and lamest of situations to place Ayaan in, sucking out the fun in the proceedings.
For instance, to test his anger, he is pitted against an overweight man, who naturally ends up becoming the subject of body shaming. Then there’s a sequence set amidst a bank robbery where Ayaan has to prove his mettle as a police officer and save a fellow officer who is held by the robber with a knife on his neck. What does Ayaan do? He ends up shooting the police officer in the genitals. And this, the film believes, is its comical zenith. Do you get the idea of the humour on display? Thank God, the film backs away from its efforts to be funny after the halfway mark.
Like Indra Kumar’s previous outing, Total Dhamaal, Thank God’s production design is also a major impediment, and it furthers the distance between the viewer and the story. A sense of artificiality pervades every frame, leaving us wondering if the film is deliberately wanting to achieve the look of an absurd fantasy in certain scenes. It is apparent that every scene is either shot using a green screen or in a studio set-up. Be it a house, the city in the background, or a lift in a hotel, everything in the film looks fake. Filmmaker Anurag Kashyap recently stated that it is high time Bollywood ventures out of trial rooms to lend authenticity to their films and Thank God is a perfect case study of why the lack of a realistic look and feel refrains us from caring for a film. Thank God, the film doesn’t project itself as a gritty examination of the human psyche in a dark world.
In Thank God, a tragedy that strikes on a fateful Diwali is quite integral to the story and the character arc of the protagonist. For a film that was released on Diwali, it is, unfortunately, quite ironic.
Film: Thank God
Director: Indra Kumar
Cast: Ajay Devgn, Siddarth Malhotra, Rakul Preet Singh