Once upon a time he was the sleek specialist. But now, Punkaj Parasher's take on Paul Verhoeven's box-office hit "Basic Instinct" is so deplorably dull, you wonder why he ever bothered to get into it.
This is basically an extinct version of "Basic Instinct". Or, we could say, this is "Basic Instinct" without Michael Douglas or Sharon Stone.
Yes, we do get Manoj Bajpai and Isha Koppiker. Isha even does Stone's infamous interrogation by the cops sequence. But Isha does not cross the line.
We get scene after scene in the first-half vandalised straight from the original, including that famous shot of Stone's eyes peeping from behind Douglas' bare back, done on Isha, Manoj and the bare back.
Alas it isn't only the back that's bare in this unbearable adaptation. Though Parasher tries hard to instil a sense of suave empathy into his adaptation, the difference is palpable...and glaring. This is a thriller where everything hangs out. Every component appears to have been devised for effect. But the constricted budget with a vision to match show up with infuriating frequency.
In a sequence set in a bookstore, we see hardly any books on the shelves. The bankruptcy of vision is in character with the mood of the film. Nothing seems real, least of all the director's slapped-on sophistication energized by a train of wet-and-wild bodies.
The hero is a cop who's also an encounter specialist. "Kissa khatam paisa hajam," is his rationale for his trigger-happy conduct.
Manoj goes from Clint Eastwood's "Dirty Harry" act to Nana Patekar's "Ab Tak Chappan"...then to Michael Douglas's "Basic Instinct". Why, there's even a bit of Will Smith from "Men In Black" thrown in when Bajpai and his comic partner Sharat Saxena flip on their dark glasses with dazzling élan.
The derivative spirit gives the thriller a queasy spin. Characters such as the female shrink (Nethra Raghuraman) or heiress Isha Koppiker's housemaid (Sushmita Mukherjee) are so preposterously portrayed, you wonder what director Parasher was thinking.
He makes cop Manoj and shrink Nethra do a mating dance all around an iron-poster bed pretending to be hot and sexy.
To make up for the utterly derivative first-half, the second-half gets wildly original. "Basic Instinct" is sacrificed for more scratch-level thrills...and I do mean scratch since the climax has the two leading ladies locked in a fist-to-fist while Manoj lies down on the floor and pretends to be dead.
He might as well pretend he never did this film.
The heroine is a best-selling author whose words prove ominously prophetic. Characters begin to get bumped off exactly the way they're described in her novel.
By the time we arrive at the contrived denouement we know one thing for sure. Paul Verhoeven won't be able to recognise this film as "Basic Instinct".