Spread it or skip it?
The pandemic has dramatically changed the way movies are made; From on-set testing and intense protocols to smaller-scale productions, storytellers have found a myriad of ways to keep making films even when the world is in utter chaos. the guilty, starring Jake Gyllenhaal, was shot in just 11 days and set in one location, and won over critics despite its low-key production. indian thriller Dhamaka, now streaming on Netflix, accomplishes the same feat.
DHAMAKA: STREAM IT OR SKIP IT?
The essential: Arjun Pathak (Kartik Aaryan) and his wife Soumya Mehra Pathak (Mrunal Thakur) have it all; they are madly in love, have successful journalism careers and endlessly support each other. That is, until they don’t; when we meet Arjun right now he is sitting in the dark looking at the divorce papers. It seems their forever happiness hasn’t been so happy after all, and he’s now been kicked out of his prime-time journalist job and relegated to the radio. It seems like a typical day until the station receives a very strange call; a man who at first appears to be angry with his financial situation and the government’s inability to take care of his people claims to have a bomb. Arjun wrote him off, telling him to go ahead and blow up the Sea-Link Bridge if that’s really true – and to everyone’s horror and surprise, he does.
Rather than absorbing this tragedy, Arjun sees it as an opportunity to reclaim his prime-time slot; he negotiates with his ruthless producer for a spot on the air, and he continues his conversation with the terrorist. What starts out as a twisted plan quickly spirals out of control. Despite what Arjun would like to believe, he has no control at all; there’s a bomb in his earpiece, ready to kill him anytime, and if this terrorist doesn’t get an apology from the government for the deaths of his construction worker friends, he will only cause more destruction. Now Arjun must try to save lives – including his and his wife’s – before it’s too late.
What movies will this remind you of? : Dhamaka is based on a successful Korean film Terror Live, and can also remind you of movies like Somnambulist, Money monster, and Prime time.
Performances to watch: Kartik Aaryan’s Arjun Pathak might not always be the easiest to find, but he delivers a hell of a performance, charming us as a loving husband during the opening cut and immediately losing us as soon as we meet him. now a scruffy radio host looking down at his divorce papers. While the writing may lack the depth that Aaryan’s performance deserves, it does what it can with the material, embodying the shock and dread of the situation as it escalates. His character might not always be the easiest to understand, but boy, is he exciting to watch.
Memorable dialogue: Dialogue in Dhamaka leans heavily on phrases that spoon feed us, like “he’s playing with you” and “if our grades go over 70% he’ll make me the director,” to name a few.
Gender and skin: Nothing.
Our opinion : The premise of Dhamaka looks pretty solid at first; a journalist whose star falls takes the opportunity to be in the spotlight again through his unexpected relationship with a terrorist. It turns out that the terrorist is essentially holding the network hostage, and despite pleas from some to stop giving him airtime, the producer is pushing for him to… maintain ratings. It’s not that this sort of thing is totally out of the realm of possibility – we’ve certainly seen some horrible things exploited for the viewer – but it’s all about context. In the world of Dhamaka, this movement gives the impression of jumping the shark; once someone is literally killed on the air it seems like the right decision to listen to the anchor whose life is also in danger, but this cold stone producer is relentless to continue the story so that she can finally get a promotion. Enough is going on with the terrorist already, and is that the excuse to continue the drama in the studio? It’s silly.
Any problems with Dhamakawritten aside, the direction is awesome; the tension builds up quickly and efficiently, and is maintained for much of the movie. It’s also thanks in large part to the convincing performances of actors willing to do nonsense like popping out cigarettes like they’re in a ’90s thriller and jabbing tired jabs in the newsroom. These characters are cruel, intricately written caricatures meant to sell a familiar story of how the media desperately goes for numbers. There is something interesting about the whole concept of Dhamaka – this obviously worked before in Terror Live – but unfortunately it just didn’t come together for me in the end.
Our call: TO JUMP. While Dhamaka is a gripping thriller, its characters are superficial and difficult to approach on an emotional level, leaving us with a void at the time of the credits.
Jade Budowski is a freelance writer with a knack for ruining punchlines, hogging the mic in karaoke, and tweeting thirst. Follow her on Twitter: @jadebudowski.
Flux Dhamaka on Netflix