An odd Lego-like house that looks almost computer generated sits perched on the cliff edge of the Greek island of Samos. Here, billionaire Kabir Malhotra (Anupam Kher) is awaiting the arrival of four people from four different countries, all lured to the island on a tempting pretext. From Bangkok comes a crooked Hindi-speaking Indian O.P. Ramsay (Boman Irani), who is contesting the Thai general election. Neil Menon (Abhishek Bachchan), a casino owner in leather gloves, mired in the drug trade in Istanbul, flees Colombian gangsters and lands up as Malhotra’s guest on Samos. A troubled small- time reporter with a drinking problem, Tisha Khanna (Shahana Goswami) is promised the story of her career and flies in from London. And a movie star, Vikram Kapoor (Jimmy Shergill ), from Mumbai hopes to escape his demons when Malhotra suggests a blockbuster movie deal.
All four arrive without much doubt or questioning about Malhotra’s invitation. But Malhotra is interested neither in making a movie nor in funding a political party. His plan is to get justice for his once estranged, now dead daughter Maya (Sarah-Jane Dias), who is connected to all four strangers. The police officers of the international vigilance squad are expected on the remote island the next morning and the game will be up. Or will it?
Like many films produced by the hugely talented and committed Farhan Akhtar and Ritesh Sidhwani, Game is also high on production values. It’s slick and the first half is quick, bringing you to an interval point of intrigue. Two murders and four suspects—or are there more, and what are their motives?
Ad film-maker Abhinay Deo takes a script by Althea Delmas Kaushal and tries to make sense of a seriously flawed whodunnit. Apparently the original script of almost 450 pages was condensed to about 150 pages. This shows. Usually a thriller establishes all its principal characters early on and plays within that circle, keeping the audience guessing as to who the killer might be. But when the foundation of the story itself is set in quicksand, there is little chance of rescue. For instance, why does a man who had abandoned his daughter suddenly care so much about who killed her?
After the break, the story careens out of control. New plot points and mind-numbing twists are introduced, new relationships established and a great deal of time is spent showing a vigilance squad officer, Sia Agnihotri (Kangna Ranaut), twirling her pen and posing as if on a fashion runway, with her hands thrust into couture trousers. She seems to have absolutely no powers of deduction or any breakthrough in the case. So the body count continues to grow, but not before we are subjected to a dull love song between Maya and Neil. Occasionally without any visual or dialogue clue, the narrative moves to a flashback so suddenly that the audience is left confused about the timeline of events.
As a debutant feature filmmaker, Deo takes a script riddled with holes and tries to plug many of them with the pace of story telling, chase and fight sequences, and exotic locales. The sound design and background music, particularly in the crisp action sequences, are impressive. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for either Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy’s songs or the choreography.
The cast pitches in to expectation: Irani hams it up, Shergill, Gauhar Khan (as Malhotra’s executive assistant), Kher and Goswami are passable in limited roles, Bachchan stays within the remits of his character and adds a mischievous nuance which is fun to watch. Ranaut tries hard to bring gravitas to her part, but you keep waiting for that one scene where she will take her hands out of her pockets, get drunk and screech: “B*****d!” Sarah-Jane Dias has zero screen presence and is extremely wooden. She does not bring the vulnerability vital to evoke pathos for a character that is the hapless victim of circumstance and power.
You cannot help but feel a tinge of disappointment and regret when films that have the potential, set-up and budgets to be visual and narrative treats stumble on one loose block. A whodunnit hinges on intrigue, surprise and revelation, but what can you do about a jigsaw puzzle where, no matter how hard you try, the pieces just do not fit.
Game released in theatres on Friday.