Mayank Shekhar's review: Dam 999

By Hindustan Times

Director: Sohum Roy
Actors: Vinay Rai, Rajit Kapur
Rating: *

Walking over a bridge, the Kerala couple in this film, ex-lovers, look towards a river embankment before them. "Do you remember this dam?" the hero asks. "They're like us, holding pressure!" Audience laughs. Here's why.

The woman with a perpetually constipated expression on her face had been dating this hero since childhood. Their horoscopes didn't match, the stars foretold disaster if they continued being together. Once, I suppose in their teens, they'd held hands. A family member suddenly passed away in their house.

Billions of bilious blue blistering barnacles, ten thousand thundering typhoons, imagine what would happen if they were to make love, or even come close to foreplay, perhaps in their forties now. They do. This is a disaster movie. I shouldn't tell you what happens next!

"Some-van-a widd be combing from the east. Maybe snake-bite, be prepared," says the girl's father (Rajit Kapur, trying too hard to get his Malayalam right). This man can predict the future, his next patient, the ailments, their ayurvedic cure, as he sits in his room surrounded by portraits of Godless communists Lenin, Marx. Destiny, the film tells us, is the ultimate Vedic truth, destiny can't be changed, it's decided by karma.

It's something a whiter audience will like to hear more from an Indian film. There is, after all, a Brit guy for this audience's comfort. He could run for mayor in this Kerala town, it is suggested. What's his contribution to the movie? An honest one, if you really want to know. Lying in bed, his bored Indian wife asks him, "What would it feel like to have someone between us, someone we can call our own?" She means a child, of course. Someone between us? "Why, am I so boring?" he says. Yes you are, confirm those in my theatre.

This fellow's a marine engineer. Like his Indian friend: the hero. For most of the while, we're onboard a ship, averting some random mishap or the other. What does this have to do with the movie itself? Nothing yet. Nothing after either.

Few would have heard of this silly picture set around a wily villain (Ashish Vidyarthi), was it not for Tamil Nadu chief minister K Karunanidhi, who saw in it a potential for panic among people in his state. He admittedly hadn't seen the film himself. But those things become immaterial in political moves. The pic is supposedly based on the 106-year-old Mullaperiyar dam, a bone of contention between the bordering states of Kerala and Tamil Nadu. One side would like to reconstruct it and gain control; the other would like to leave it alone, the current situation economically favours them.

An equally old dam in Kerala does exist in this film, though that's not the one that bursts, to be fair. Even if it does, to assume that the movie would then instill a fear psychosis among audiences is to suggest viewers of 2012 would go nuts knowing the world's actually going to end next year. What the atheist Karunanidhi might be more appalled by is that astrologer guru (Rajit Kapur), doing Vedic chants to ward off the evil destiny that has visited his river.

2012, incidentally, was a huge hit in India's hinterlands. Disaster movies, or "pralay" pictures – as they're called in north India's mofussil towns – is a hugely popular American genre that Indian films, even with UAE funding, being distributed by Warner Bros, as this one, will find it hard to match up to the might of Hollywood.

The visuals, hardly scary, or real, appear for a minute or two max. We continue to be treated to some third-rate plot around an unrequited, horoscope unfriendly romance: "River of love flowing into the sea of separation…" Right.

At some point, you do look inwards, given the film's Hindu philosophy, and wonder, "What's this fat, heavy helmet resting on the bridge of my nose? Is this a 3D movie?" Come off it.

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