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March 22, 2002
A date to remember
For a first-timer, director Mani Shankar does a valiant job with 16 December.
It has four songs, three of which appear in the background, but it certainly does not follow the routine song-and-dance formula. 16 December entertains as well makes you think.
The film does have a love angle though there is no undue focus on the romantic couple. Now for the film. In 16 December Mani Shankar has tried to explore white-collar crime. The premise being, millions of rupees leave the Indian shores daily to Swiss bank accounts. The account holders always remain a secret. What the director tries to do is trace this movement of money from the grass-roots level.
Vir Vijay Singh (Danny Denzongpa), a retired Major General, is an intelligence chief. He engages ex-military officer Vikram (Milind Soman) and his team --- military officers Sheeba (Dipannita Sharma) and Victor (Sushant Singh) to uncover the scam.
The investigation starts at Dalal Street, Mumbai's financial district (which also houses the Stock Exchange). Money is shown pouring in white unmarked Ambassadors, in which the driver and gunman deliver the cash after uttering a number code taken from the Mumbai telephone directory.
The money is funelled into a bank, converted into American bonds and transferred to a Swiss bank account --- an Indian politician's account. Ultimately, the money is used to fund a terrorist organisation to destroy India.
Enter Dost Khan (Gulshan Grover), a disgruntled army officer-turned-terrorist, whose only aim is to destroy India, the country responsible for the Partition of Pakistan in 1971.
16 December moves at a brisk pace. Mani Shankar does not waste time on unnecessary details. The film requires a fair amount of concentration to understand the chain of events.
16 December tries to be realistic. Though there are discrepancies. The story starts on December 3, ending on 16 December. Not very likely that a scam as big as the one here would be resolved in 14 days.
In New Zealand, where the film has been shot, the story wavers. Vikram, under cover, is supposed to woo Sonal (Aditi Govitrikar, in a guest appearance), a Swiss Bank employee, to get hold of a microchip containing vital information in under three days.
Milind manages to woo her, but also reveals his true identity to her. Strange, I thought it was a delicate operation with national significance. What's more, Sonal hands over the microchip quite easily, which makes one wonder about her integrity and loyalty to her job.
After his debut in Tarkieb, Milind Soman gives a composed and good performance in this film. Debutante Dipannita lends some freshness to the film. There is no helplessness at any point of time.
National Award winner (for his role in Ramgopal Varma's Jungle) Sushant Singh plays a positive role and delivers well.
All Aditi Govitrikar has to do is look good and say nothing. Which works fine, considering her dialogue delivery is bad.
Danny Denzongpa and Gulshan Grover turn in competent performances.
Of special note are the 25-minute SFX in the film. The younger versions of Danny and Gulshan are very convincing. Mani Shankar has also inserted them digitally in the historic treaty between India and Pakistan on December 16, 1971. There is also a scene in which the two actors share the same frame as the army generals who actually signed the treaty in 1971 (a la Tom Hanks and President John F Kennedy in Forrest Gump).
The pleasant music does not weaken the pace of the film. Dil mera is worth a listen.
16 December may not be a box office hit. But it is definitely different from the usual love stories that we are subjected to.
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