May 17, 2002 
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No chills, no thrills
This Danger falls flat

Priya Ganapati

Noir film is a style of filmmaking that shows the dark side of human nature. It lends itself to cinema that is gripping and reflective of the society's evils in terms of violence, greed and lust with a strong undercurrent of moral conflict.

Its tone is characterised by three elements. First, the narrative is a flashback or a series of flashbacks by one of the principle characters. Two, greed and lust are the triggers to the events that unfold. And three, the woman is the cause of the downfall of the characters.

Danger, which stars Ashutosh Rana, Tara Deshpande and Jas Arora as its protagonists, is touted as India's first noir film, conveniently overlooking Ketan Mehta's Aar Ya Paar.

The faux pas would have been forgiven if Danger had lived up to its promise of being a 'Hamlet-Hitchcock cocktail'. Instead, it ends up as a badly mixed-up drink -- which though has a set recipe, manages to mess it up thoroughly.

Danger opens with Nainesh (Ashutosh Rana) being chased down the alleys and other nondescript location in an unmentioned city. He successfully evades his chasers in true cinematic style -- sliding down the pipes, jumping over rooftops and plunging into a river. That's when we discover that he is the accountant of a mafia don, Bhai. Tara Deshpande, Jas Arora and Gautam Kapoor

Though a 'bania' as the various characters through the film keep reminding you, Nainesh does have the trappings of a man associated with the underworld. He has a moll, Unnati (Tara Deshpande) who -- though he refers to as his wife -- is actually his mistress. He also has a flair for tolerating violence and when necessary, using the same to achieve his ends.

Completing the trio of protagonists, is Saurav (Jas Arora), the couple's new neighbour who is having an affair with Unnati.

Unnati convinces Saurav that he must steal the Rs 20 million that Nainesh would be holding for a few hours, before he hands it over to Bhai.

Saurav agrees and steals the money, even as Unnati lies to Nainesh that she saw the Bhai's nephew (Gautam Kapoor) hanging around their apartment a few minutes ago. She tries to coax Nainesh into running away to escape the Bhai's wrath but he changes his mind and stays on.

In a confrontation with the Bhai, Nainesh ends up shooting him, his nephew and their henchman, setting in motion in the events for his own downfall. The rest of the story is about how Nainesh discovers Unnati's infidelity and who finally gets the money.

Ashutosh Rana, Tara Deshpande and Gautam Kapoor Produced by Vasant Chheda, who had earlier financed Split Wide Open and directed by Govind Menon, Danger had been mired in controversies due to a fallout between the two.

The film was also stuck at the censors for three years because of a few explicit kissing scenes.

After having seen the film, it is incomprehensible why either of the two issues should have created such a fracas. Irrespective of whoever has directed it, the film is eminently forgettable and so are its kissing scenes between Unnati and Saurav.

Though explicit, the scenes neither establish the affair between the two convincingly nor do they look erotic. Instead, every time they kiss, you want to cringe -- the pair of lips and tongues with the fine lines and the bottom of the tongue, showing in extreme close up on the big screen, is more like a class for anatomy students.

The controversy with the censors could have been easily avoided by chopping off those scenes with little damage to the story.

Ashutosh Rana, without doubt, is an extremely competent actor. Yet, in this film, he tends to go overboard. Rather than let the audiences exult in the play of emotions across his face, he enunciates every word, every thought through his mind. For instance, just after he's unexpectedly shot the Bhai, he goes it to a fit of dialogues which start right from 'Oh my god, what am I doing to do now,' to 'I must get a grip on myself.' Watching him enact these lines would definetly be more interesting than hearing him say it. Jas Arora, Ashutosh Rana and Tara Deshpande

As his mistress, Tara Desphande turns in an inconsistent performance, starting with the bad tending to go to the awful. Her cause is not helped by her bad make-up or costumes or even the poor lighting that shows every pore of her skin in close-ups.

Jas Arora is good, though he is forced to deliver imagined Mumbai tapori style dialogues, which ring false at times. Yet he does manage to bring a certain amount of conviction to his part. His counterpart from the modelling world, Gautam Kapoor is cast in a blink-and-you will-miss-him role.

What does redeem the film to a certain extent is its thankfully short length (about two hours), it's pulsating background score by deejay Whosane?, slick camerwork and a plot with twists and turns.

Yet these score on technicalities. Danger lacks the soul or the thrill to keep it together. It's poor direction, screenplay and acting pull it down so bad that even the few bright spots can't keep the viewer's interest going.

Danger tries hard to break away from the usual Bollywood format -- a little too hard -- offering neither gratification to the discerning audience nor joy to patrons of the conventional Hindi cinema who would stray into the theatres to watch it.


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