Rediff Logo Movies Banner ad Find/Feedback/Site Index


Ssshhh! Don't tell anyone

Suparn Verma

Rajiv Rai's latest film Gupt is a film full of possibilities. Gupt could have been a psychological murder mystery. Gupt could have been a film noir with lots of red herrings. Gupt could have been a on-the-run, road movie. Unfortunately the plot of Gupt doesn't allow it to be any of these. The weakest link of Gupt is its storyline. The plot has no consistency, the story is full of holes, and the characters are either a bunch of woosies, or unevenly balanced, making them singularly unconvincing.

Gupt is the classic yarn about the innocent man on the run trying to prove his innocence. But in the case of Gupt our man Saahil (Bobby Deol) is more interested in running away with either of the girls, Esha (Kajol) or Sheetal (Manisha Koirala), and dancing on some of the most scenic locations all around the world.

The story kicks off with Saahil's (Bobby) reluctance to accept his step-father, who is a governor (Raj Babbar), causing friction between him and his mother (Priya Tendulkar in a thoroughly dull performance). To make matters worse the step-dad fixes up Bobby's engagement with his classmate Manisha, though Saahil is busy romancing childhood friend Esha (Kajol).

Saahil expresses his loud disapproval and threatens to kill step-dad who makes the announcement at Saahil's birthday party.

That night step-dad is bumped off.

Saahil is sentenced to life imprisonment after he is convicted for the governor's murder. Raj Babbar fits in quite comfortably as a governor on the brink of taking an important decision on the open door policy (aka liberalisation).

The governor's political and industry associates consists of a bunch of cartoons, who actually are supposed to be red herrings and victims. There's Dilip Tahil, playing industrialist, Raza Murad as the lawyer, Prem Chopra as the minister with a laughing machine (Harish Patel) for his secretary etc.

Saahil's enters into prison and almost immediately runs into the old gaol cliché, the mean, bad-ass jailer who has a score to settle with everyone. But Saahil meets a old man (Count of Monte Cristo) who tells him of an underground pipe that starts beneath the commode of the solitary confinement cell.

To get there Saahil picks up a fight with the two local meanies. What's more the two hard-core toughies turn into such softballs after a clobbering by Saahil that they dig up the passage for four days without food and water while a sour-faced Bobby grudgingly lends a helping hand every once in a while. The whole escape plan seems inspired by Frank Darabount's Oscar nominee The Shawshank Redemption. The tunnel is a dried-up pipeline with a trickle of muddy water running through it. It is such a sorry excuse for a underground drainage pipe that even mice fear to tread in it.

Once out from jail with the help of Sheetal, who dares the cop Udham Singh (Om Puri) to take action against her. He says he can't: he's got more on his mind, like arresting Saahil. So Sheetal hotfoots it to Saahil and has a brainstorming session on how to nab the killer. During breaks, they dance around every tree and lake possible.

Om Puri looks bored, sleepwalking through his role. But the inspector reacts with alacrity after he tracks down the two prisoners who escaped with Saahil, shooting them down without a thought. His tactics resemble the ones adopted by Keanu Reeves in Speed when he shoots Jeff Daniels in the leg to get at the bomber Dennis Hopper.

What is really interesting is Saahil's technique to find the step-papa's killer. He keeps making pulp of all the old man's associates, torturing them to tell him who among them was the real killer. All this violence, without any reason to believe they had anything to do with his death.

Though Bobby Deol fits in the cute chocolate hero mould when he prances around with the women, he sounds like a dandified lout from an upper-class locale, complete with designer jeans, a fashionable stubble and a gleaming Swiss knife in hand. And he alternates between a scowl and a poker face, leaving little room -- or time -- for more complicated expression.

Manisha Koirala is wasted in a role that had lots of potential but goes nowhere. All she does is pout and flaunt her body. She is shown to be completely besotted by the hero, but there is no build-up to it. Her role never gives her the chance to show off her talent. It is only in the songs that she steals the show, from right under Kajol's nose.

Kajol, on the other hand, dominates the entire second half of the film, when she is given a chance to showcase her talents. She shines in the scene in which she vents her frustration because her father (Paresh Rawal) is the governor's secretary, thus making her the unlikely candidate to marry Saahil.

Viju Shah, the constant music composer for Rajiv Rai and doesn't let down on the musical front. All the songs are catchy and have the signature Viju Shah beats. The background score lifts the film and creates the right atmosphere. Ashok Mehta's camerawork set the right mood and tone for the film. In fact, the songs are so well picturised that they dwarf the film. The pace of the film is only hampered by the excess of sub-plots and the way characters pop in and out of the film.

This is especially true of the climax of the film, which is stuffed with so many characters that Rai should have gone 70 mm to get them all in to wrap up all the loose ends.

In Gupt, Rajiv Rai seems to have forgotten an elementary lesson, "Sometimes less is more." The result: the less you see of Gupt, the better.