Shaad Ali always made interesting films. He started out with quite a generic scene by scene remake of Mani Ratnam’s Alaipayuthey in Saathiya and then delivered a much different affair in Bunty Aur Babli. His Jhoom Barabar Jhoom though divided audiences like no other. Either people loved it or the film was wholeheartedly panned. That’s usually the mark of a filmmaker to watch out for.
Kill Dil is built on a solid premise of a hitman, Dev (Ranveer Singh), falling in love with a woman, Disha (Parineeti Chopra), who works on rehabilitating ex-convicts. In the process, he switches out of the dark side becoming an inadvertent product of Disha’s work. Dev teams up with his best friend and brother from another mother Tutu (Ali Zafar) for his hitman exploits, both of them growing up under their dictator boss Bhaiyaji (Govinda). The two men are presented as opposites of each other but are also coloured by the same shades of grey, being the apples from the tree that is Bhaiyaji. In the beginning Tutu says that if the Pandavas’ father had been Dhritarashtra then they would be Kauravas and not the Pandavas. This dynamic is one of the few things done well in Kill Dil. Dev is the talky, joking brat while Tutu is of the brooding silent kind. Disha asks of Tutu why is he so forlorn and Dev replies that’s because he hasn’t got a girlfriend. And she asks why are you so jaunty and Dev gives the same answer. If you don’t get this, Ali also often dresses Dev in whites and Tutu in all blacks.
Ali can at times be a frustrating filmmaker and his whims can only polarize.Events in his films happen at random, things are glossed over or presented as long vignettes. Things never seem to progress from A to B to C. It’s usually just A to C or A to D sometimes. The first half goes by briskly and owes big part to Ranveer Singh’s quips and timing. Be it his exchange with a jeweller played by Brijendra Kala (in a routinely terrific cameo) or with the librarian to figure out the meaning of LOL and ROFL, Ranveer is in top form and also possibly, himself. But the film never succeeds in making you believe in its universe. It feels as if Dev and Tutu are adopted into Disha’s gang a little too easily, the romance is a bit uneven and rushed despite Ranveer’s performance and then there is the biggest disservice from Ali’s part. The Bhaiyaji character.
Govinda has been having a narrative shifting time for a while. His is definitely the most awaited comeback in recent times and the role and performance surely do not disappoint. Even an age old Push-pa joke becomes gold coming from him and he adds a touch of his to it with, “Push-pa, I hate tears”. Ali goes ahead and assassinates this character with great potential by not making him more central to the film. It’s written to be too one dimensional, like much of this film, with each scene featuring him never progressing his character in any form. We never get his motivations completely, we see him for far lesser time and he is made to talk only in punchlines that do not always hit their mark. There is a nagging feeling that he could have got more hands on things to do than just deliver one liners. Imagine how meaty it would have been if he actually shared screen space with Parineeti Chopra’s Disha? But this never comes to be. Alas in recognizing his best characters, by God Shaad Ali, tum gifted nahin ho.
(An edited version of this was first published in The New Indian Express)