It would take the Bhatts, those grand-masters of morality tales, a very long time to live down this one. Clotted with cliches and cluttered with trite situations straight out of the Bhatts' earlier impressive oeuvre, Blood Money dives into a cesspool of predictable characters who we know are heading nowhere. And we couldn't care less.
Debutant director Vishal Mahadkar seems to vacillate between high-anxiety and laziness. He lets the plot hang loose at the most crucial junctures prompting us to wonder if the director lost interest, just like we do after a point.
There are seeds of an engaging morality tale here. A bright-eyed eager-to-succeed MBA from India arrives in Cape Town with his equally wide-eyed wife. They take in the grand lifestyle with squeals and gasps that kindergarten children would recognise when they visit the zoo for the first time.
The scenic location is shot with a kind of inert aloofness that comes to the camera when it knows it's shooting a no-go.
Once in Cape Town, the directors simply flops down to a kind of cinematic siesta from which the narrative seldom wakes up. Plodding through a sequence of long-winded images denoting the protagonist's (Kunal Khemu) descent into a diamond-studded hell, we are left with a film that has too much to say, and doesn't say it well enough to hold our interest.
At the outset, Khemu's idealistic wife(Amrita Puri) tells us their posh mansion reminds her of the chocolate-coated home in Hansel & Gretel. Before could chew on that one, the director moves to an elaborate sequence in an Italian restaurant where, vis-?-vis Khemu's growing awareness of the "money trap" laid down by his bosses, his boss snarls, "So you want to taste the dish or investigate what's going on in the kitchen?"
We really don't know what's gone into the slow-cooking plot of Blood Money. The screenwriters seem to have decided on piling on the predictable with no respite in sight. The songs credited to four composers come on with a desperate intensity that fails to impress us about the film's noble intentions.
Blood Money purports to be an eye-catching soul-piercing take on misguided ambition, degeneration and redemption. But it fails to generate any kind of original perception on the subject. Worse, there are sure signs of laziness in the storytelling where the original intention of creating a sense of foreboding and suspense in the hero's morally challenged world, falls apart leaving gaping holes in the narration.
The film talks of maladies and aberrations in a multi-billion corporate house. But on screen, all we see is one snarling tycoon and his hyper-ventilating brother whose sophisticated-goons' acts are as intimidating as two amateur guys trying to hold up a bank with a toy gun.
Khemmu tries his utmost to inject earnestness into his bland role. He fights off the cliches to come up with some heart-melting emotional moments. But he can't really hold up a film that sags like an over-the-hill diva's face-lifted glamour.
Puri as Khemu's wife succumbs to the vast legacy of dej? vu that her role carries. From Mumtaz in Vijay Anand's Tere Mere Sapne to Sonal Chauhan in Kunal Deshmukh's Jannat, leading ladies have forever watched their husbands lose their moral ground with no hope of redemption. Puri is way back in the queue.
Blood Money suffers from a serious deluge of monotonous scenes where the actors speak their line as though in a radio play. We hear them loud and clear. But we fail to empathize with the cleverness that the dialogue tries to achieve in scattered showers.
By the time Khemu's character takes that tumble in the hay on the office desk with the office whore, we know the film and its main character are doomed.
Salvation in this film is that exit door which we rush to when the end-credits roll.
Provided we last that long.