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Saturday, January 28 2023
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Phantom- A waste of human endeavour

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Kabir Khan has directed two movies that got released back-to-back within a month. Both have the same theme – our relations and attitude towards our ‘friendly neighbourhood’ country, Pakistan, depending on how you see the whole issue. Bajrangi Bhaijaan was a mega hit. Phantom is sure to see empty stalls. Not because it is made badly, but just because you do not feel anything, nothing at all, as you come out of the theatre, or even as you are viewing it.

It reminds me of that old lame Indianism- ‘Operation successful, but patient dead’( I did not invent that, so don’t blame me for the pj, we grew up on them). It’s a well-planned movie executed on a lavish scale and you don’t want to find fault with it, but you’d not recommend it either.

The premise would have looked very promising on paper, I guarantee you. A RAW team dreams up a sort of fantasy revenge to avenge our countrymen for the humiliation of the terrorist attack on Mumbai in 2008 (remember that visual of the Taj with a dome spewing out black fumes that felt like our souls were being seared?). In the movie, all those responsible for it are systematically finished off. You’d expect our country folk to say ‘yaaay’ to that. But we don’t.

The reason is simple, really and fills me with warmth (no hard feelings, Kabir Khan, nothing personal about this). The people of our country do not want to linger in the ‘revenge’ mode. We want to move on. A lot of water has flown down the holy Ganges in the meantime and even our hardest critics cannot deny that we’ve dealt with the matter in the most honourable way possible, legally and emotionally. The lone survivor has been handed out capital punishment and we have closed the file in our minds. As a country we may be filled with dense, doltish and dim-witted folks on the average. Yet….yet, we aren’t so misguided and jobless that we have our heads filled with hatred and malevolence. Our youth are determined to chase education, jobs and prosperity; they’ve no time for bitterness and hostility.

That is why a ‘Bajrangi Bhaijaan’ that underlines offering an olive branch to the neighbor will any day score over a ‘Phantom’ that chases revenge and makes you feel empty in the end. Both are fantasies. But the former has humanity on its side, while the latter is …well…I really can’t put my finger on it, it’s just a waste of human endeavor.

Saif Ali Khan and Katrina Kaif go through the motions looking very serious. The cinematography is excellent and the storyline makes sure you get to see London, Chicago, Beirut, Syria and Pakistan. The supporting caste is very good. The movie is definitely not a mass entertainer, in that there are very few humorous moments, nothing that makes you feel for the characters. It is not a ‘Sarfarosh’ that propelled you to participate. It’s a well-made movie that fails to move you because you do not identify with the theme of revenge per se. We have better things to do. You end up feeling hollow and vacuous.

In the rejection of the theme, in the thumbs-down given to jingoism perhaps lies our triumph.

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