Film: 'Samrat & Co'
Cast: Rajeev Khandelwal, Madalasa Sharma, Gopal Datt
Director: Kaushik Ghatak
Before we plunge into the review, we would like to share a line spouted by Rajeev Khandelwal in the very last scene of the film: "Asaan case ek tuti hui pencil ki tarha hoti hai -- there is no point." (An easy case is like a broken pencil -- there is no point.)
Gopal Dutt (L) as Chakradhar Pandey or CD and Rajeev Khandelwal as Samrat Tilakdhari aka STD, in a still from the film.
They say imitation is the best form of flattery. By that parameter, 'Samrat & Co' flatters the hell out of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Guy Ritchie, Robert Downy Jr, Benedict Cumberbatch, Jeremy Brett, Agatha Christie, and even Enid Blyton, in some bits. But if these personalities ever saw the film, they would probably head to Lacuna Inc (from 'Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind') to erase the memory of ever having watched it.
The story revolves around Samrat Tilakdhari or STD as he is fondly known. No, he does not see anything wrong with the nickname. He also wears a trench coat, has curly hair, deduces stuff fast, talks even faster, and indulges in recreational boxing. And he has an an assistant-cum-friend called Chakradhar Pandey or CD. This part-time sansani-type television news anchor introduces himself as 'what son' (we kid you not) to the damsel in distress Dimpy Singh (underwhelmingly played by Madalsa Sharma) within first 15 minutes of the film.
After dazzling Dimpy with his "7th sense" (his words, not ours), Samrat goes to her picturesque, yet eerie house in Shimla which looks like it has dropped straight into 2014 out of a 'Hum Aapke Hain Koun' world. Here, the lady's garden has been perishing because of her former gardener's shraap (curse), and that has affected her father's health. The father, Mahendra Pratap Singh, portrayed by brilliant actor and writer Girish Karnad (why oh why?!) has been feeling jumpy because of it all.
As Samrat and Chakradhar arrive, things start happening and dead bodies begin to pop up -- first one to go is daddy dearest.
After several cloak-and-dagger scenes and an item number by Ganesh Acharya (we wish we were kidding, we really do) Samrat finds out a little background dirt on the family, their neighbours and even random employees. But what was painfully obvious to all of the 5 people sitting in the dark theatre, Samrat takes over two-and-a-half hours to figure it out.
The script is full of cheesy and unintentionally hilarious dialogues, such as, "Come and get ready for dilchasp rahasya", or "Here's a mistress in distress". The fringe characters remind us of the motley group in 'Maine Pyaar Kiya' or 'Hum Aapke Hain Koun'. For example, the maid-in-chief Shanti (Puja Gupta), tries very hard to be like the late actor Lakshmikant Berde, the mimicking Hari (Navin Prabhakar) is a mere caricature that can be found in any one of the background cast from a saas-bahu drama. We were fully convinced that the Barjatya favourite Pomeranian dog 'Tuffy' might make an entrance. Thankfully, he didn't.
A very blah plot, amateurish twists, and tacky 90s-inspired look and feel make the film a boring affair.
Why so many good actors like Rajeev Khandelwal, Girish Karnad, Smita Jaykar and Indranil Sengupta agreed to do this film is the one mystery we were unable to solve.