3 Stars (out of 4)
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Would the presence of gun-toting goons really make it easier to remember a critical piece of information? Probably not, yet that’s the situation in which Emraan Hashmi’s character finds himself in Ghanchakkar.
Hashmi plays Sanju, a safe-cracker happily retired from his life of crime. An associate passes his name along to a pair of crooks — Pandit (Rajesh Sharma) and Idris (Namit Das) — who offer to make Sanju rich with “one last job.” Sanju’s tacky, fashion-victim wife, Neetu (Vidya Balan), encourages him to take the job so that they can buy a nice apartment and a big-screen TV. The TV sells Sanju on the idea.
The bank robbery scene is hilarious thanks to some masterful camerawork that makes the most of the celebrity masks the crooks are wearing. Following the heist, the Pandit tells Sanju to stash the money until the police give up on their investigation.
When Pandit and Idris come to collect their share of the loot three months later, Sanju claims that he doesn’t recognize them and that he doesn’t remember hiding any money. Both Neetu and Sanju’s doctor confirm that he had an accident that caused “anteretrograde amnesia.” Sanju can remember things from before the heist, but he has trouble recalling anything since then.
Since Sanju’s accident isn’t shown on screen, the audience is put in the same position as Pandit and Idris: we have to take Sanju’s word that it actually happened. Hot-tempered Idris would just as soon kill Sanju, but Pandit has the two of them move in with the couple so that they can keep and eye on Sanju and help him remember where he hid their money.
The performances by the main cast members are terrific. Even though there’s a chance that Sanju could be faking his amnesia — duping the audience as well as Pandit and Idris — Hashmi makes Sanju so sympathetic that we want to believe him. As the pressure mounts and the film’s tone changes from comical to serious, Sanju’s manners and appearance grow wilder. His grim, wordless performance during a song montage just before the climax is captivating.
Balan gets to have fun as Neetu. The character’s gaudy, trendy outfits are hysterical, as are her mood swings. She’s so self-interested that it’s distinctly possible she’s taking advantage of Sanju’s memory loss. And the movie’s best fight scene is when Neetu attacks her unwanted houseguests with a broom.
Sharma and Das are great as Pandit and Idris, respectively. They’re not menacing enough to seem like real threats to the married couple, though there’s always the chance Idris could act impulsively without Pandit’s calming influence.
What keeps Ghanchakkar from achieving greatness is an ending that feels too convenient. There’s no sense of inevitability, a feeling of the pieces falling into place. The movie highlights many circumstances that could be either coincidences or evidence of a conspiracy, but it never really resolves which is which.
Further, the movie plays loose with Sanju’s amnesia. While it’s clear that he remembers who he is (unlike with retrograde amnesia), the doctor says that Sanju’s memory could disappear completely at any time, without provocation. Since he’s been fine in the three months since his accident, that seems unrealistic.
There are also a number of scenes in which Sanju takes pills for his memory loss. What are they supposed to do? Cure it? Stabilize the memories he has? If his entire memory could fail him at any time, why bother with the pills? By giving Sanju’s memory loss such wide parameters, it seems less like a legitimate problem and more like a convenient plot device.
Quibbles aside, Ghanchakkar is funny and smart and features some top-notch acting. It’s worth checking out if you’re in the mood for something a little quirky.