Emraan Hashmi’s blank gaze has rarely been used to better effect than in Ghanchakkar, Raj Kumar Gupta’s third movie. The actor, who put his mouth to work in his early films, deploys his peepers in Gupta’s comedy, about a retired bank robber who is coerced into one last multi-crore heist by two no-gooders but who experiences partial memory loss after the job is done.
Where is the suitcase containing the wads of notes that Pandit (Rajesh Sharma) and Idris (Namit Das) allowed Sanjay (Hashmi) to cart away and store for three months? Try as hard as they might, they can’t extract any information from Sanjay, who stares into space and shrugs, “I don’t remember”, to their every exhortation.
It helps to keep expectations low while watching Ghanchakkar, which isn’t as madcap as the title promises. Gupta opts for a mix of deadpan and mental, slowing down the movie ever so often to let a joke play out, and then speeding it up in order to reach the next humour zone. The best bits cover the time Pandit and Idris spend in Sanjay’s flat to get him to remember better. There, they encounter his voluble and sartorially challenged wife Neetu (Vidya Balan) and endure her terrible cooking—the dinner-time running gag pays rich dividends each time it is played.
Gupta cares as much for logic as for pacing. Neither Sanjay nor Neetu is serious about retracing his steps, or even trying to find the car containing the cash. The screenplay, by Gupta and Parveez Sheikh, doesn’t mine the dramatic potential of Sanjay’s partial memory loss—he conveniently remembers or forgets only those things that are needed to transition to the next scene.
At 137 minutes, the thin truth behind the missing money is stretched to the limit. Deadpan lapses into dead mode. Ghanchakkar is at heart a languid and quirky comedy, but even laidback movies need momentum.
The last-minute awakening and rush towards the climax are signs of Gupta’s refusal, also seen in his previous movie No One Killed Jessica, to end the party. He’s having too much fun tinkering with Hashmi’s ruffian-Romeo persona and exploiting the comic talents of Sharma, Das and Balan. Their superbly performed antics provide an adequate foil to Hashmi’s lame-duck thief, and help things bubble along till the end credits, which come not a moment too soon.
Ghanchakkar released in theatres on Friday.