Phantom: Jingoism, bad acting spoil this Bollywood potboiler

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  1. INR 66.03 Cr.
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Bollywood.com Rating: 
3.5
Average: 3.5 (1 vote)

By HT

Based on former investigative journalist S Hussain Zaidi's Mumbai Avengers, Kabir Khan's Phantom was never meant to be a great piece of cinema. The plot and story, however, had the potential of turning it into the perfect Bollywood potboiler. But, what mars the final product is extremely bad acting by Katrina Kaif and Saif Ali Khan and a loose script.

Phantom is a fictionalised account of Daniyal Khan (Saif), an Indian Army officer who was court marshalled, spearheading a covert mission to kill the masterminds of the ghastly 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks. Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) officials form his team in the mission to bring a closure to all the victims of the cowardly attack. He is accompanied by "security agent" Nawaz (Katrina), RAW official Samit Mishra (Mohammed Zeeshan Ayyub) with Bengali actor Sabyasachi Chakraborty playing the mastermind behind the mission.

For all the high-pitched drama that you would expect from a story as charged, Phantom simply lacks the thrill. Not that the script does not try. In fact, it tries a little too hard to build the tempo around events at several points in the film. For example when Sohaila Kapur, who plays a Pakistani nurse and helps Saif and Katrina in their mission, is caught by the Pakistan army/ISI (Phantom does not make any distinction between the two) and Katrina tries to approach her. Instead of helping her, all Katrina does is stand at a distance as the troops barge into Sohaila's house and the old nurse kills herself. Katrina is shown waiting with bated breath throughout the incident and simply leaving when the sound of  bullet being fired is heard.

First thing: Was Katrina really waiting for this poor, old woman - who had lost her son to a suicide operation but wanted to help a just cause - get killed? Second thing: How do could she hear the bullet of a small pistol when she was standing three blocks away from Sohaila's house on the second floor? Third thing: How do the players in a mission, which is not official and is executed by three members of RAW, manage to acquire a fund of 10 million pounds to pay Nawaz, simply to identify one of the main accused in the 26/11 attacks?  But then, maybe we should overlook logical failure for the sake of patriotism.

Talking of patriotism, there is too much of that in the movie. From jingoistic dialogues to really vague ideas, Phantom has an overdose that mars the experience of an otherwise decent thriller. However, all this could just be helpful in attracting crowds at the box office and end up making it the second hit in a row for Kabir Khan after Salman Khan-starrer Bajrangi Bhaijaan.

Kabir, nonetheless, needs to be lauded for his efforts. He has taken care of several minute details in the movie to ensure that its political impact is not blunt. His simple message through the film, as we see it, is that India as a country should not bow down to terrorism in the name of diplomatic complexities. We know everyone was outraged and seven years after the ghastly attack the wounds remain open and bleeding as its mastermind roams scott-free in the neighbouring country. He is even able to get films banned claiming they are a threat to his life! Also, giving 'Muslim' names to all the key players in the covert mission (except the one who gave the idea, Samit Mishra), Kabir seems to have played safe.

Some of the dialogues also border on jingoism, but are quite interesting and catchy nonetheless. While trying to convince his seniors at RAW for the "mission" Samit Mishra says, "Ye log (terrorists) kitna bhi attack karein, hum (India) kuch karte to hain nahi, bus cricket khelna band kar dete hain."

In his attempt to get Daniyal on board, Samit again says, "Jab 10 jahil launde ek sheher me tabahi macha sakte hain to hum kyu unki dahshat-nagri me aag nahi laga sakte?"

Then again, a old tea-seller roaming on a bicycle around the Taj Hotel won't charge anyone for his tea. Why? Because he has just got the news that the mastermind of the attack in which his son, who was a waiter at hotel, was killed has been eliminated in Pakistan. The old man tells Katrina, "Aisa laga mere bete ki rooh ko sukoon mil gaya."

A terrorist, who is being sent to India, is told "Hindustani ladki se ishq nahi karna", apart from other instructions on what he needs to do.

Watch Phantom just for the character actors if you have to. All of them - Sohaila Kapur, Mohammed Zeeshan Ayyub and Sabyasachi Chakraborty - deliver power-packed performances, as if to compensate the lead pair's lack of acting skills.