Friday, November 14, 2014


Release date (India):
November 14, 2014
Shaad Ali

Ranveer Singh, Ali Zafar, Parineeti Chopra, Govinda

The way a child turns out is determined not by where he is born but by where he is brought up. As Ranveer Singh’s Dev records these words for a video being shot by his friend Tutu (Ali Zafar) in one of Kill/Dil’s earliest scenes, it becomes clear that this film is about the eternal nature-versus-nurture debate. Minutes later, when these two amoral professional sharpshooters first encounter the beautiful Disha (Parineeti Chopra) at a nightclub, and we see interest igniting in Dev’s eyes, we know too that this film will go on to be about second chances in life and about people living beyond the margins of respectable society but straining to enter hallowed circles.

These themes have been dealt with repeatedly by Hindi cinema, world cinema, theatre and most other art forms, but it matters not at that point because Kill/Dil starts off with such promise. Besides, isn’t it natural to expect an unexpected new take from Shaad Ali, the director who earlier gave us the memorable Saathiya (2002) starring Rani Mukerji and Vivek Oberoi and 2005’s box-office conqueror Bunty Aur Babli with Rani, Abhishek and Amitabh Bachchan?

In the first half hour, the narrative of Kill/Dil is crisp and to the point, events unfold without a second wasted, Shankar Ehsaan Loy and Jim Satya’s lovely background score seems designed to seep into our bloodstreams and invade our heartbeats, the dialogues are replete with understated humour, Ranveer’s comic timing is in full flow, the stylised storytelling in cowboy Western mode is accompanied by a deliberate theatricality that makes it appealingly unconventional, and the interesting casting (especially the presence of Govinda) holds out great possibilities.

Shortly thereafter though, these elements start spluttering under the strain of a screenplay offering little that’s new in terms of story or point of view, nothing that’s not already been said all the way from Yash Raj Films (YRF) founder Yash Chopra’s own Deewaar (1975) to YRF’s Gunday (2014). So familiar is Dev and Tutu’s saga that I almost expected Arjun Kapoor to saunter on to the screen and replace Ali Zafar at some point. Ranveer and Arjun had starred as orphans who grow up to be best buddies and mafia dons in Gunday. In Kill/Dil, Ranveer and Ali play best buddies and career killers working for the gangster Bhaiyyaji (Govinda) who had rescued them when they were abandoned in a garbage dump as babies. Gunday was unremarkable on most fronts, but it had more verve than Kill/Dil, which seems to have lost interest in itself somewhere along the way.

It also appears as though Shaad lost interest in Ali Zafar or Ali lost interest in the film at some point. After the initial half hour, Dev dominates every frame he shares with Tutu, not only because he is a slightly more important character, and not only because of Ranveer’s eternal zest for his work, but also because he comes across as being far more invested in this particular role than his male co-star. Even the camerawork and choreography appear designed to somehow relegate Tutu to the margins while giving Dev and later Dev+Disha centre stage, which is a pity because anyone who saw Ali moving to Dhichkyaoon dhum dhum in David Dhawan’s Chashme Baddoor can tell you that the man enjoys a good dance when he is in the mood.

On behalf of womankind, I’d also like to register a complaint against the film’s writing team for having given Tutu so few dialogues. We can argue over Ali’s performances in the past, but one thing is beyond debate: his Hindi diction is enough to make any female Earthling go weak in the knees. It’s almost a crime then to cast him in a Hindi film and give him so little to say.

Another protest must be registered against choreographer Ganesh Acharya, who gets to work in Kill/Dil with one of the greatest dancers in the history of Hindi cinema – Govinda – but fails to throw him the kind of mind-blowing challenges one would expect. That Govinda still has the moves is evident from even the little that he gets to do here, but the pulsating beats of Bol beliya and the title track had potential that Acharya does not fully tap.

However, the biggest betrayal by this film is the manner in which the screenplay under-utilises Govinda’s formidable acting talent which, in any case, has been sadly overshadowed in his filmography all these years by the many crappy films he has chosen to do. To reduce him to a virtual cameo after allowing him to dominate the film’s trailers is completely inexcusable.

With Govinda and Ali on the sidelines, it is then left to the charismatic young Ranveer and Parineeti to carry the film on their shoulders. Both stars give it their best, but are helpless at the hands of the overall lifelessness of the project after its initial sparkle.

In the end, what one is left with is the memory of some really neat, fun songs by Team Shankar Ehsaan Loy and Gulzar, the thought that if Ranveer can immerse himself so enthusiastically even in this half-baked film then he fully deserves every iota of his current stardom, the hope that the talented Ms Dancing Eyes Parineeti’s recent misfortunes at the box-office will not rule her out of the reckoning in Bollywood…and regret. So much regret.   

If Shaad had summoned up half as much passion for this project as Ranveer and Parineeti expend on it, Kill/Dil would not have felt like the listless, criminal waste of amazing resources that it is.

Rating (out of five): **

CBFC Rating (India):
Running time:
127 minutes

Poster courtesy: Yash Raj Films

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