It is a well-meaning, proficiently crafted and competently acted drama about the wages of medical skullduggery. But Ankur Arora Murder Case fails to make a strong enough case for itself.
The film?s lack of vitality stems from factors that are embedded in the comatose screenplay, which has neither much sting nor any imagination.
For one, the title is a dead giveaway, as a result of which one large chunk of the film is completely predictable. The audience knows a death is on the way and that it is going to lead to a ?murder case?.
The first half plays out largely in an upscale medical facility; the second unfolds in a rather sterile courtroom where two lawyers who share more than just a profession square off against each other in what turns out to be a dreary legal contest.
Moreover, neither the hotshot general surgeon guilty of committing a costly human error nor the hapless mother of the eponymous boy who pays with his life for the hospital?s negligence is anything more than a character type.
They do not evolve beyond the specific function apportioned to them by the screenplay.
The three other principal characters in the narrative ? two young medical interns and a lawyer ? fare no better.
The doctor is a swaggering, arrogant man (Kay Kay Menon) who believes that he is god.
When a tycoon grievously injured in an accident is wheeled into the hospital, the surgeon shoos everybody, including the patient?s son, away and, like a cocky pugilist stepping into a boxing ring, declares: ?I?m the best.?
Not only does the doc?s unseemly bravado ring utterly false, you also instantly know that this guy is going to be in serious trouble sooner than later.
The unsuspecting lady (Tisca Chopra) who admits her son in the hospital ? he is brought in with an innocuous stomach ache only to be sent to the OT for an appendicitis surgery ? is a working woman who has separated from her husband.
But that is all there is to her. Her character graph remains absolutely static ? she does not grow into the tragic figure that she is meant to be even after she experiences the agony of losing her young son.
She also faces the prospect of her seemingly watertight case against the doctor and the hospital owner (Harsh Chhaya) falling apart in the face of the machinations of a cynical advocate (Manish Chaudhary), but she remains as stoic as ever.
The other characters, too, are damned to be stuck in a drab groove. A diffident but upright intern (Arjun Mathur), who freezes during a surgery and is barred from entering the OT, decides to play whistle-blower and sleuth.
His live-in girlfriend and fellow intern (Vishakha Singh), a small-town girl desperate to make it big in the medical profession, refuses to jeopardize her career by supporting her lover?s crusade.
The victims hire a female lawyer (Paoli Dam), who, on her part, has a skeleton in her cupboard.
The script follows a simple logic: if it?s a woman, she must be a real tough nut.
So, the single mother has a male friend who is always by her side, the female intern defies her middle class moorings and shares her boyfriend?s living quarters, and the lawyer appears all too willing to have a baby out of wedlock. They deserved a better script.
The problem with Ankur Arora Murder Case is that promises much but delivers little.
The manner in which director Suhail Tatari handles the narrative is commendably earnest up to a point. He proffers no cheap thrills.
The script, too, sticks to its primary concern and eschews formula-ridden set pieces.
The film also throws in plenty of medical procedures and terminology, suggesting that a great deal of homework has been done.
If you keep your ears open, you might even learn what a headache or the common cold is called in the books.
But you don?t quite begin to care for the men and women on the screen enough to either hate them or root for them. So the tale of a mother fighting for justice against all odds lacks the requisite combustion.
Despite the limited bandwidth each one is given, the actors are all first-rate. Kay Kay Menon gives the self-important surgeon a suitable air of nonchalance.
If Tisca Chopra isn?t able to present a poignant portrait of loss and tenacity, it is because the character is ill-advisedly stodgy.
Arjun Mathur gives the intern who stakes everything at the altar of truth a certain degree of energy, while Vishakha Singh, after making quite a strong impression in the initial sequences, falls into a rut that is clearly not of her own making.
As for Paoli Dam, she is definitely worth more than what this role might seem to indicate.
For the film as whole, it is two stars for intention but only half for execution.