Movie Review: 'Bluffmaster' ...

By Subhash K. Jha, Indo-Asian News Service

imageFilm: "Bluffmaster"; Starring

Abhishek Bachchan, Priyanka Chopra, Nana Patekar, Riteish Deshmukh, Boman Irani, Tinu Anand, Sanjay Mishra; Directed by Rohan

Sippy; Rating: **

You know you are being taken for a ride. You know it's all a masterly make-believe. But the packaging and presentation are

so intriguing, the efforts to take Hindi cinema away from the rhythms of a routine narration are so pronounced, you smile at

the sheer novelty of this satirical stress-buster.

"Bluffmaster" is cinema without punctuation marks. You cannot but marvel at second-time director Rohan Sippy's command

over the language of cockiness.

"Bluffmaster" is an extremely cocky film. It's sly and slender in its purpose, but wise and hefty in the methods it adopts

to achieve that purpose. Abhishek's thoughtful, elegant performance helps the director make those leaps without mishap.

He takes you from postures of stealth to a man who has just got to know he's going to die.

No hysterical hi-jinks for our hero, this time. When the freaked-out doctor Boman Irani reminds him of his approaching

death, Abhishek, playing the title role in a titillating celebration of satire and cerebration, goes into a retro-shell.

You wish the film had clung to that emotional core, explored the underbelly of mortality through Abhishek's marvellous

expressions of tragic inevitability -watch him in that sequence where he catches his betrayed and hurt girl Simi (Priyanka

Chopra) at her door to confess he's dying. She sniggers. He smiles knowingly...

Or that well-crafted sequence in a shopping mall where after hearing him confess that he loves her, she catches him lying

for the umpteenth time...these are moments that could have defined the hero's duplicitous character in sensitive

splendour.

There's a core of humanism at the tale's most basic level. Writer Sridhar Raghavan skims over the core issues (for

instance commitment phobia in urban lifestyles, materialism versus spiritualism, the working-girl's crisis of dignity).

Cutting through the chase Raghavan's rocking and rolling screenplay goes straight for the kill.

No one really dies in "Bluffmaster", not the 'dying' hero, not his blasé conscience, and certainly not our interest level,

which Sippy keeps alive through his extravagantly syncopated narration.

Besides the sheer velocity of Abhishek's emotive faculties, one of the joys of watching "Bluffmaster" is to see Mumbai's

crowded craggy scruffy by-lanes...the trashy underbelly has been captured on Himman Dhamija's camera with urgent and anxious

fastidiousness.

Here's a film that respects its ambience without glorifying it. The same goes for its characters who are caught in

postures of pantomine, not always convincing.

Nana Patekar's over-the-top villainy is a case in point. His uncouth character is outrageously narcissistic and incredibly

cartoonish.

Some of the best lines go to Patekar. Imagine, he sits with a floozie on his lap and drawls, "I'm an old-fashioned kind of

guy. To me, a laptop is still what it used to be."

And then at the climax on top of a windswept building when Abhishek embraces his sweetheart for what he thinks to be the

last time, Patekar interrupts, "That's the problem with you youngsters. You start anywhere not caring about the people around

you."

Tongue-in-chic, ultra-cool and nobody's fool, "Bluffmaster" achieves that strange synthesis of spoof and caper which our

audiences are not quite prepared for. You can't fault the director's sense of timing because he has none. One minute his hero

is crying with his partner about that devil of a thing called death...the next minute he's caught in a crazy pillow fight

with doctor Boman Irani.

The all-encompassing satire leaves you neither warm nor cold. It leaves you untouched. The tumble of gags is smart and

sassy. But they are also symptomatic of commercial Hindi cinema's mid-life crisis. We all know we want a change. But we don't

know where to go.

"Sometimes you can tell a film by its trailer," Patekar tells us.

"Then don't buy the ticket," retorts Abhishek.

Don't listen to him. Go see this film for its insouciant take on life and laughs, and for Abhishek's controlled

performance, his eyes providing a window to a soul that the film lacks.

Riteish Deshmukh as his sidekick shows how dependable a support system he has become. Priyanka Chopra has little to do.

But she does it with eye-catching aplomb.

Bollywood.com Rating: 2