At one point in Karthik Calling Karthik, Karthik?s boss tells him: You are one strange fellow. That is the understatement of the year.
Karthik, played by Farhan Akhtar, is more than strange. We are told that he is a topper from IIM but when we first meet Karthik, he is a singularly oppressed worker drone in a construction company.
His boss and colleagues treat him like dirt. He is in love with a colleague, Shonali played by Deepika Padukone. He has written her exactly 1317 emails but never had the courage to send even one so in four years, she barely notices him.
And then, one night, Karthik gets a call from himself. Another Karthik says he is taking over the reins of loser Karthik?s life. Before you know it, the loser has turned into a suited-booted winner, who even manages to get girl. But the good times are too good to last. The phone calls soon turn ominous and Karthik?s world unravels.
Karthik Calling Karthik may or may not have been inspired by a Twilight Zone story called Shatterday, in which Bruce Willis speaks to his alter ego who eventually takes over his life but it certainly feels like an overly long episode from the famous television series.
Debutant writer-director Vijay Lalwani creates some seriously creepy moments here. He successfully transforms an ordinary telephone into a malevolent instrument. I also enjoyed the romance between Karthik and Shonali, who is far more daring and feisty than him. Deepika Padukone finally seems to be thawing in front of a camera.
But sadly Karthik Calling Karthik works neither as a romance nor as a thriller. The drawn-out love track only stalls the suspense as do the unnecessary songs, especially in the second half.
The characters don?t engage you emotionally and the mystery isn?t thrilling enough. The pacing is uneven but the fatal flaw is the limp resolution. I don?t want to give away too much but the plot?s big reveal is a disappointment. It?s all foreplay and no pay off.
Moreover, Karthik Calling Karthik is inconsistent with its own internal logic. When you backtrack and see how the pieces fit, it doesn?t hang together. Eventually then, Karthik Calling Karthik feels like a vanity project for Farhan Akhtar, who is in every frame of the film. He?s compelling, especially in vulnerable loser mode, but he can?t add flesh to this sliver of a story.
Karthik Calling Karthik isn?t a bad film but it isn?t very good either.