Deadline: Sirf 24 Ghante
India (2006) Dir. Tanveer Khan
Those of us with a more discerning movie palette that watch films from around the world tend to baulk at the idea of Hollywood remaking successful foreign language works. This isn’t necessarily snobbery, rather being acutely aware of how much will be distilled or lost in translation. But, this also works the other way too.
Heart surgeon Dr. Viren Goenka (Rajit Kapur) is to receive an honour for his contribution to medicine at a ceremony in New Delhi, leaving wife Sanjana (Konkona Sen Sharma) and daughter Anishka (Jhanak Shukla) in Mumbai. After a day out, Anishka is abducted from her bedroom by two men, Krish (Irfan Khan) and Kabir (Zakir Hussain), with Krish staying behind to make his demands in person to Sanjana.
Meanwhile in New Delhi, Viren is accosted at his hotel at gunpoint by Roohi (Sandhya Mridul), an accomplice of the kidnapper’s. Via mobile phone, Krish lays out his demands for a ransom payment of 1 crore (10 million) to be delivered inside 24 hours or Anishka will be killed. By upon learning Anishka has asthma, the group find keeping her captive requires more work thus up the ransom putting more pressure on Viren.
I must confess most of the Bollywood films I have seen are from the last few years, this 2006 opus being the oldest. What I have divined from this is the industry has become a lot more refined and less hokey over the years, and I imagine had this been made today, it might be a less risible attempt at translating an American work to suit the tastes and sensibilities of Indian audiences.
Expanding on the gist of the opening paragraph of this review, Deadline: Sirf 24 Ghante is a Bollywood adaptation of a 2002 Hollywood film Trapped, a film I have not seen but do know it was a commercial and critical flop. This make it a curious choice for Tanveer Khan to adapt but might also explain why it doesn’t hit the dramatic heights it clearly aspires to, if the original wasn’t well received.
For the record, this isn’t a completely terrible film per se but the application of Bollywood traits to a crime thriller story – such as an overly busy camera, intrusive musical score, and choppy editing – provides aesthetic and tonal clashes that ruin the rare taut moods and gnarly tension. The result is much unintentional comic value I am confident wasn’t Khan’s intention.
Luckily, we are spared the extravagant song and dance numbers, not just a positive but common sense given the plot but you never know with Bollywood. The story, to be fair, is solid if unspectacular since kidnap dramas are difficult to bring fresh ideas to without over egging the pudding. In this case, it is the presentation that takes care of that cavil but I digress.
Unfortunately, the script is also at fault with plot holes galore, hopelessly lame dialogue, and contrivances introduced for the sake of it, although looking at how the US original ends, we get off rather lightly with the changes made. For example, Anishka’s asthma: Sanjana proves to Krish she isn’t lying by showing him the inhaler kept in a drawer. What kind of mother – let alone a doctor’s wife – keeps an inhaler in a drawer if her daughter’s asthma is as dangerous as she claims it is?
Not to mention Sanjana and Anishka had been out shopping all day with no signs of her asthma or the inhaler before Sanjana mentions it to appeal to Krish’s better nature. The there is the fact Viren is apparently a famous surgeon and judging by the luxury he and his family live in a wealthy one, so how does he have trouble raising the money if he is evidently loaded?
Krish experiences the most tumult under Sanjana’s defiance whilst Anishka proves too smart for dopey Kabir, yet Viren is constantly under Roohi’s thumb despite her gun being absent for most of her screen time. This is one area when the original version seems to have made their doctor smarter and gutsier; then again, one of the major changes to the plot here is the reason why this situation is happening and proves a crucial on to give this version a moral message the original seems to lack.
As admirable as this is, and it does pack a punch, though not one that doesn’t land as hard as it should with the over-sentimental and mawkish fall out, it might be a little too late for some as the damage has already been done. The tonal peaks and troughs aren’t helped by the musical score undercutting the moment – a dramatic symphony for heavy scenes, stirring romantic washes for when emotions run high – taking away from what the actors are trying to convey.
On that front, Irfan Khan is head and shoulders the strongest performer, and indeed the sole highlight of the film, doing his best to make something out of the weak material he has to work with. He is very convincing as the clam yet cold Krish but reveals a different side in the final act that doesn’t feel like an egregious personality clash. Sadly, the rest of the cast ham it up, lacking Khan’s intuitive knack for self-awareness, almost undoing his hard work.
But whilst the script undermines the gravid premise driving the plot, it is helped by the traditional Bollywood presentation, dating this film to before 2006. The camera refuses to stay still, dramatic scenes are rife with rapid zoom shots like this was a Shaw Brothers film, and the internal pastel veneer of the decor says 1976 not 2006.
Deadline: Sirf 24 Ghante crumbles under the weight of trying to make a Bollywood film with of a story that just doesn’t fit that distinctive style. In better hands, this might have been a great kidnap drama, instead it is passes the time and mildly holds interest but leaves us lamenting what could have been.