Karthik Calling Karthik

Producer: Farhan Akhtar, Ritesh Sidhwani
Director: Vijay Lalwani
Starring: Farhan Akhtar, Deepika Padukone, Ram Kapoor, Shefali Chhaya
Music: Shankar Ehsaan Loy, Midival Punditz
Lyrics: Javed Akhtar
Genre: Thriller
Recommended Audience: Parental Guidance
Film Released on: 26 February 2010

Karthik Narayan (Akhtar) is a simple, unassuming guy who just can’t help being bullied. You could say that he has very little sense of self, or various neuroses which consume his sleeping hours – whatever it is, Karthik has it bad. He’s got an aggressive landlord who hounds him for money, a nasty boss who won’t give him rightful credit, and co-workers who dismiss him as a loser.

But life changes for Karthik when he starts getting self-affirming telephone calls from someone who claims to be . . . himself. This telephone Karthik seems confident and assured and gives loser Karthik advice which helps transform his life. The landlord is now subservient, the boss applauds him, and Shonali Mukherjee (Padukone), the stunning co-worker who doesn’t know Karthik exists, suddenly wants to be his girlfriend! Will this wonderful life last, or is it just another trick of fate?

This is quite an ambitious film, seeing that it has a pretty unconventional subject, almost no masala, none of the usual flamboyance of Hindi cinema, or the neatly ordered endings that the masses clamor for. The first half was a breeze as we watch Karthik justly asserting himself, and the nasty people getting their comeuppance. This is also where happy Karthik sings all the melodious songs with Shonali.

The second half where all the serious stuff happens drags a bit, and there is need of some strong editing here. Attention spans are limited, and the camera pans a little too long on shot endings, which lessens impact and takes away some of the tautness that a thriller must have to work.
Farhan is easy to watch as down-trodden Karthik. He just as easily transforms to suave, confident Karthik – really some very fine acting. Deepika is lovely as Shonali, and while she probably is a bit understated (as she almost always is), she still does very well. Ram Kapoor who seems to be expanding in girth every time I see him on screen (big and small) plays a rather clichéd character Mr.Kamath; the nasty boss done to the hilt. He shouts, threatens, swaggers and insults and that’s pretty much his role. There’s also Shefali Shah as Dr. Kapadia, the bespectacled psychiatrist, and she is adequate in her small role.

For a first film, director Vijay Lalwani does a pretty good job, the biggest flaw in this film being it’s editing. In this thriller, the telephone is the chosen instrument of torture. And while there is some ominous buildup everytime our hero reaches out to take the call, it takes too much time to do anything. It’s like the camera is thinking about panning, while we the audience are already at the scene! Classic camera lag – bad for any fringe horror film worth it’s salt. Lovingly lingering camera shots are good for romantic fluff, or serenely beautiful films which hint at the meaning of life. For a thriller, we’d expect more snap and crackle, and short bristling takes.

It might be that the story is not totally sound, but it also feels like Lalwani hasn’t quite figured out how to make a thriller feel like one. KCK while adequate, lacks the intensity so needed for this genre. The ending is a bit ho-hum, although logical once you wrap your mind around it, and the film itself is little under-whelming. You’d want a thriller, even a subtle one, to get in your face, and wrest from you your undivided attention. KCK can’t do that, because it’s not a tight, taut package.

This movie is still worth a watch, if you need some spooky-time, or a break from the usual masala-fare.
This film is clean; it does have a few, fleeting scenes featuring romantic intimacy, but there is zero vulgarity/crudeness. The subject is probably unsuitable for kids under 15 though (I’m rating this an R); younger kids might not get it, besides being spooked out, and older kids still might need an explanation of the neuroses of the human mind.


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