Kidnap asks: Does committing a crime make a criminal?

A few minutes following intermission, a convincing Kabir proclaimed (in English), "Who cares what the truth is?" The implication of the words alone is not the context in which they are used in the sentence that gave Kidnap (2008) the shot in the arm it needed, after which there was no looking back. It's a good film that is self-aware, and one that works well mostly because of the perfect casting of Sanjay Dutt and Imran Khan in a classic man versus boy tale. Their presence is ably complemented with sleek cinematography and fantastic art direction in a film by Sanjay Gadhvi, who also directed Dhoom (2004) and Dhoom 2 (2006).

The approach to answering the questions that are part of the title to this post, and the first sentence, is novel, a testament to the quality of the script by Shibani Bathija, who also scripted Fanaa (2006) and Kabhi Alvida Na Kehna (2006). You might be surprised at how you answer the questions too!

Kidnap tells the story of Kabir Sharma (Imran Khan), an orphan, who kidnaps Sonia (Minissha Lamba), daughter of Vikrant Raina (Sanjay Dutt), the 'richest Indian in the world'. From the outset, the audience knows it's not for the money, and for reasons indicated by an animated short featuring one of the principal characters which accompanies the opening credits. The reason remains a mystery to Sonia's parents (the mother played by Vidya Malvade), until clue after innovative clue is deciphered. The question is, at what price?

The film does not divulge into much commentary on juvenile crime, but uses the plot effectively to illustrate a point anyone with the willingness to look at two sides to a story would appreciate and agree with. It's not as controversial as it sounds and is remarkably different from what the trailers and soundtrack suggested. Some concerns about it being released on Gandhi Jayanti were dismissed by this, the setting for perhaps the most crucial moment in the film, with strong emphasis through dialogue on the uncontrollability that stems from anger:

There is much to appreciate in the film, starting with Sanjay Dutt and Imran Khan, who were excellent in their roles. For all the respect that Dutt's presence commands, it takes an actor as young in his career as Imran to portray the vulnerability that was subject to intimidation by a larger-than-life character who was an arrogant businessperson, but was willing to go to all lengths to save his daughter. Credit the make-up artists here for giving Imran the look that fit his character rather well.

The same must be said for Minissha Lamba's look and acting. That she might not look as young as her character (okay, seventeen was a bit too young, but she looked stunning) was not an issue after the first five minutes of the film. In Yahaan (2005), she proved she could carry the rustic image brilliantly (that remains her best film). Here, she proved she can compete with just about anyone in the eye candy provisioning as well, the merits of which I would be glad to argue against, because it doesn't fit in as well in the context of the script. Of course, I don't mean to complain ;)

Almost a prerequisite to enjoying the film is suspension of disbelief. If you've seen Dhoom or Dhoom 2, you know that already. Thankfully, it's all quite complementary if you're willing to take off your thinking caps, which I had no issues with.

Vidya Malvade (Chak De India (2007)) was by far the weakest link in the film. Surprisingly, her age compared to her daughter in the film (Minissha) didn't have much to do with it. Again, credit the make-up. But there were several instances that left one questioning her preparedness -- style over substance can only work so well. While her role was less crucial than the other three, the film would have been well served to have someone better equipped to handle the sensitive character of a mother and divorcee.

The action was top-notch. While there was one unnecessarily lengthy scene with a race against time involving a car, motorbike, ferry, and train, one high-intensity scene in particular that was executed brilliantly more than made up for that. If he keeps this up, Imran will eventually become a great action hero. Spider Man would have been proud of him in what transpired after this...

The script was innovative and the screenplay strong, especially in the second half. The dialogue (Sanjay Ghadvi) was engaging. And just when one thought things might get predictable, tables turned.

Perhaps the biggest strength of the film was its art direction and cinematography. The sets were a feast for the eyes. The camera work was fantastic, and some of the sequences in the ocean or at the beach or waterfall were amazingly well shot. The lighting too was apt, whether it was at a club, the place where Sonia was held captive, or a prison.

The music was integrated better than expected. Although the soundtrack (Pritam Chakrobarty) was above average at best, only one song felt entirely unnecessary. The rest were used quite decently, especially Meri Ek Ada Shola by Sunidhi Chauhan and Sukhwinder Singh. The song even featured a special appearance. I counted four special appearances throughout the film, and shall leave them to you to discover.

Kidnap gets three and a half stars and then some for a novel approach in having its audience second-guess (and justifiably so) their values systems, because its core leads to swaying opinion on (and thus favoritism for) the protagonists and antagonists, whose roles transform as the film progresses. Using this platform, it gives Sanjay Dutt and Imran Khan almost equal time on screen, and they deliver well to ensure a good viewing experience. The film has its flaws, but they're not too bothersome, enough to publish this at 2 AM and recommend you see this when you can. If you decide to go see it in theaters, be sure to get there on time because you wouldn't want to miss the opening credits. Watching this on the big screen has its advantages.

Movie rating: 3.5/5 (Good)

Music rating: 2.75/5 (Above average, better integration)

My classification: R (for plot, violence, some blood)
PG-13 minus the blood. Parents, you're better off watching this in the absence of children.

Official film website (and picture source):

PS: Honorable mention to two scenes that reminded me of Aamir Khan scenes in Dil (1990) and Baazi (1994). The one that was similar to a scene from the former even had some very similar dialogue, while the one for the latter had more visual relevance. If you see Kidnap and have seen the either of Dil or Baazi, try giving it a shot! ;)

PPS: Pritam plagiarism status update: If you've followed Pakistani pop music singer Haroon (formerly of the group Aawaaz), you'll know instantly as I did that the principal lines to the song Mausam Yeh Awesome Bada are sung to the exact tune of his track titled Mehbooba (from the album 'Lagan'). Shame, but he's done it too often for me to hold it against a film. It's more personal than that!


ajnabi said...

Now I'm dying to see the movie, Pritam's plagiarism and all. Thanks for the review. I was already intrigued, though, especially after seeing the "Mausam" promo! ;-)

Anonymous said...

got through to your site looking for reviews of kidnap. it's playing at my nearby theatre, so i'll go check it out tonight. you had better be right, bolly fan, no pressure =)

theBollywoodFan said...

Hi Ajnabi: Per Pritam, it's 'inspiration', not 'plagiarism', LOL. Again, it's such a shame, because some of his music is very good. His original works will always be questioned because of his track record, which is well-deserved, of course. The soundtrack to Kidnap has actually gotten better after the movie. What followed 'Mausam' almost had me yelling out to Kabir! I think I even said it, my friend next to me whispered, "seriously?"

Ajit: Thanks for your comment, and I hope you enjoy the film. If you play along, you probably will. Please let us know what you thought of it, and yes, 'no pressure' sounds right :P


Nicki said...

Thanks for sharing. Looks really good!

Vidya plays a mom to Minissha in the film? WTF. I remember her most from the movie Inteha where she plays Nauheed's older sister.

Anonymous said...

hi, okay, so i had fun watching it, and i agree about everything you have written, including vidya. glad i went, the reviewers on the newspapers don't have much good things to say, but as you say, thinking caps utaar ke it was very good. thanks!

Shweta Mehrotra Gahlawat said...

You know, i'd almost decided against seeing this- but your review sounds +ve enough to take the risk :)

theBollywoodFan said...

Nicki: Yes, and I thought Vidya Malvade struggled her way through her role. Here's where a Bipasha Basu would have been much more effective. It really wasn't Vidya's looks as much as the delivery of her dialogue. She was so careful in delivering them correctly, it was quite painful to watch. The rest, though. Haven't seen Inteha, thought she was quite good in Chak De. Hope for better things, though...

Ajit: Thanks for your comment! Glad you enjoyed it, and yes, one might as well not see it with the thinking caps on. There are too many things that fall in place (or don't) to make it very believable, but then again, some of the biggest stars have made a career of this brand of cinema, so I'm quite surprised at how people aren't willing to let it pass...

Shweta: I almost didn't go after reading some of the initial reviews, but I'm very glad I did. I wouldn't say it's mandatory viewing in theaters, because there are holes in the plot, sure. But the performances are worth checking out if only for the Sanjay-Imran battle. And the cinematography too makes it worthwhile. I'm starting to think Imran Khan can indeed make it long-term, Bollywood's on to something here.


Anonymous said...

Dont know what the movie says but I always thought that a criminal is one who is convicted of a crime - anything else is a mere suspect. So, a criminal is only one who is caught!

Wonder how well its doing box-office-wise. At any rate, I will have to wait till it comes on DVD as I cant make it to the Indian movie-theater anytime soon.

Anonymous said...

I liked this review.

I am a new reader of this blog and really love it. Can you tell me from where did you get this wonderful temlate?

theBollywoodFan said...

Hi Bollyviewer: You're on the right track with the definition as the film uses it :)

The early box-office reports were quite positive, but that might be true of most films starring well-known actors and releasing over a holiday weekend.

Hi Saurabh: Thank you very much for your comment, and I greatly appreciate you stopping by. Do come again!

If there's one thing I could change about the service, it's the layouts :( I just modified one of the built-in templates. You too can make customizations with some knowledge of the XML source code. The tool lets you, and I'd suggest experimenting with a dummy blog first. Good luck!


sonajoy said...

I'd like to expand your definition of the noun form of "criminal". One doesn't necessarily have to be convicted of a crime to be labeled a criminal. Anyone who COMMITS a crime is also a criminal --- the criminals who go scot-free are an attestation to the fact......topping the list is O.B.Laden!

theBollywoodFan said...

Hi Sonajoy: Thanks for your comment.

Agreed, but I think Bollyviewer's viewpoint (I read it as 'caught' as in evidential material supporting the suspect's committing a crime, as opposed to the literal 'caught' that implies capture) can indeed be applied to your example too, with which I agree 100%, like most of the sane people of our planet would, LOL.

Wish we could apply the standard across the board, though, using which over 15% of the elected Indian parliament -- that has a documented criminal record -- would be fair game too. See, in their case, video evidence with 'the criminals' (using your definition) admitting their crimes is not enough! They're scot-free too, but ruling counties, cities, and states of the world's largest democracy!

A lot of these issues aren't as black and white, and differing perspectives matter (legal definition versus actual). I think both definitions can arguably be debated to be correct.

In the context of the film, then, I'm sure you all would find it interesting. Maybe the film should have had one of those infamous court scenes!


sonajoy said...

Hi Bfan,
Thanks for your input. See what you mean by differing perspectives, contexts,etc. As you pointed out, lots of grey areas too.
Was voicing my thoughts along the lines of Gertrude Stein's " A rose is a rose is a rose." Perhaps much closer to home is Margaret Thatcher's reference to the IRA...." A crime is a crime is a crime"........!

theBollywoodFan said...

Hi Sonajoy: Those put things in context well, don't they? Thanks for sharing. A crime is a crime is a crime is right!