JOHNNY GADDAR is fast-paced, has the right dose of the thrill element and has a good ensemble cast. But there is that ‘extra something’ missing that could have elevated it from merely a good, slick thriller to an engrossing, edge-of-the seat cinema. I guess that something has to do with more meat in the script. It also has something to do with no introduction of the main characters; how they meet, what got them together, what is their background, and why they are together. Ok, they want to make fast money, so does every one. But why are they different from the clan? No such explanation is offered. So one is as confused as the cop who gets bumped off towards the end. Even the money being collected, over Rs 2.5 (Rs 50 lac each from every member, they are five of them) is not clear for what.
Then, begins the chase, and the director gives credit to ‘James Hadley Chase’. One of the members wants the entire booty for himself and tries to loot the other on a train when he is on his way to clinch the ‘deal’. From there on, it’s one
murder after another, till the expected end where the ‘gaddar’ meets his fate. If you have read enough of James Hadley Chase books you will know that the villain always meets his waterloo. No surprise here.
The editing is tight, so is the background score that does justice to the visuals on screen, but there is that looseness to the script that is felt in the scenes. Does it have anything to do with the fact that the director, Sriram Raghavan, did not shoot (according to his own admission) with a bound script. “We did not have a bound script. We only had a beginning, middle and an end,” he is quoted to have said. “The advantage of working without a bound script is that ideas keep coming – what I call happy accidents. The disadvantage is that you don’t know what you are doing four days before the shoot.”
Well, Sriram, this is one ‘happy accident’ you could have avoided; it would have been the deciding factor, like I said earlier, from merely a good flick to an edge-of-the-seat one. It’s like you know you have a winner but like Pakistan’s Misba-Ul-Haq, with victory just a stroke away in the recently-concluded T20 World Cup in South Africa, you go for the flamboyance of a paddle sweep when a more traditional approach would have done the trick!
The cast is good and it shows in their performances. Zakir Hussain as Shardul is super. This character actor is making a dent with diverse performances (RISK, DARLING). Vinay Pathak (Prakash) is moving from strength to strength while Ashwini Kalsekar as Vinay’s wife breathes fire into her role. Rasika Joshi is on a high, after DHOL last week; she turns in another fine performance as Daya
Shetty’s (Shiva) mother. Rimi Sen (Mini) Shardul’s wife who has the hots for Vikram has not much of a role but manages to make an impact with her limited scenes. As for Dharmendra, without meaning to sound rude, he is miscast. A more powerful, mean character would have tilted the scale in the director’s favour. As the leader of the pack, he is soft.
Neil Mukesh (Vikram) who makes his debut has to be commended for taking the negative route to win the hearts of his audience. His first murder is an accident, and once he tastes blood (pun intended) he goes all out with the calculated mind of a professional killer. He looks good, is a great dancer, delivers his dialogues well and has a strong screen presence.