Cast: Manish Paul, Elli Avram, Manish Choudhari, Puja Gupta, Varun Badola
Director: Saurabh Varma
Rating: 1 star
Just once, I would like to see to see a hacker in cufflinks, carrying a laptop bag and wearing nicely-shined shoes. When a dude sports regular hacker gear – tousled hair, juvenile T-shirt, jeans, a haversack and some sort of half-baked Nineties American slang – you know that he’s the kind of idiot whose hacking skills are limited to getting into college websites and delaying the exam results. Meet Mickey Arora (Manish Paul), Punjabi boy from Malviya Nagar in Delhi, whose best friends describe him as a waste of his own time. For the rest of the film, we won’t be allowed to forget that he’s a Punjabi boy from Malviya Nagar in Delhi, and that he’s a waste of his own – and our – time.
When a film is marketed as a “comic thriller”, you’re prepared for some regular terribleness, but you hope they’ll skip the romance. Nope. Mickey spies a Caucasian-looking chick (Elli Avram), who resembles a video game character he has created, called Kung-fu Chameli. Desi Lara Croft. He turns into a regular Bollywood hero and stalks her until she decides it’s easier to burst into a dream song in an exotic locale with him than show him attitude.
[quote]Chauhan describes Mickey as the “Sehwag of the hacking world”[/quote]
Mickey has a squad of fellow small-time cyber criminals – Floppy, Chutney, and Pancho. Yeah, I thought they should be in a band called Code Punjabi, too. For some reason, police officer Siddhant Chauhan (Manish Chaudhuri) decides to bring Mickey Virus, as he’s fondly called, to solve a murder case involving hackers. Chauhan describes Mickey as the “Sehwag of the hacking world” – I’m not sure why the hacking world needs someone who will either score a century in fifteen minutes or get out for a duck in half an hour. But they spend the entire first half convincing him to help. We’re also taken laboriously through the purportedly endearing quirks of each character.
I’m quite tired of these Delhi films that make it a point to drill in the local slang. They were fresh when they started, but when a comedy track starts sounding like our everyday conversation, we can’t really keep laughing, no? Even the one-liners sound old. Mickey sighs, after blurting out something offensive to Desi Lara Croft, “Bhagwaan nay meray zubaan mayn backspace kyun naheen diya?” Yawn. “Love China ka maal hai, no guarantee, no warrantee” has been lifted from an even more terrible film, Chashme Baddoor if I’m not mistaken. Yawn. There’s a random mother character who keeps calling up to ask her son to buy pumpkin from the market for kaddoo halwa. Yawn.
Achha, we need to get back to Desi Lara Croft, who looks like she has walked straight out of a reality show and into a bank (which is, indeed, the case with the actress, who was recently an inmate in the desi version of Big Brother). Conveniently for her hacker loverboy, she accidentally transfers a humongous amount of money into the wrong account. Mickey hacks into the website of this high-profile bank and does a Ctrl+Z on the transaction. It’s that simple. Passwords and cyber security are so passé.
But then, it gets tricky when Rs 100 crore suddenly disappears from the account of a money-laundering don called Anwar Raja, with a finger in every politician’s pie. Suddenly, Mickey must run for his life – the police may charge him with murder and fraud; the goondas may sentence him in a kangaroo court.
The second half suddenly turns into a grisly chase in which characters die quite like this is one of the video games Mickey is so fond of. It doesn’t help that the director’s sense of suspense is about as bad as his sense of humour. I would have taken the painful jokes – ‘hacker’, ‘hawker’, hahaha, hehehe – if only the chase kept me interested. But the filmmakers, who seem to have quite literally lost the plot, are as clueless as the hero. Usefully for him, the culprits are so fond of threatening each other, and explaining their modus operandi to their henchmen that Mickey – and we – get to know all their plans. And yet, the filmmakers throw red herrings at us. Come on, ya.
As the film unfolded and collapsed in a car park, in Nehru Place – the ironically-named hacker’s paradise in Delhi, where Chinese goods fulfil the promise in the former Prime Minister’s slogan, Hindi-Cheeni bhai bhai – I had an epiphany: there’s a cop in the film, who’s allergic to gunpowder. As a film critic stuck watching this debacle, I could so relate.