Gumraah is what happens when filmmakers decide that continuity is too much work.
Aditya Roy Kapur plays both Arjun and Sooraj, a pair of lookalikes who are accused of murder. Only one of them is the killer, and it’s up to the police to figure out which one of them it is.
The story starts promisingly. We see the murder of a 30-something tech guy named Aakash (Aditya Lal) and even get a glimpse of the killer. Special investigator Shivani Mathur (Mrunal Thakur) is assigned to the case, to the annoyance of the local police department. When Shivani finds a photo that clearly shows the killer’s face as he leaves Aakash’s bungalow, Assistant Commissioner of Police Dhiru Yadav is overjoyed. The killer is Arjun Sehgal (Kapur), an architect Dhiru has had a personal grudge against for years. It seems like an open-and-shut case until Sooraj Rana (also Kapur) is brought in for drunk driving, and the cops realize there’s no way to tell Sooraj and Arjun apart.
This is a good setup, with the lookalikes and their unknown connection to the dead man and to each other. Plus there’s the tension in the police station between Shivani and Dhiru, not to mention Dhiru’s vendetta against one of the suspects. Can’t wait to see what the cops uncover during their investigation, right?
Wrong. The words “3 Months Earlier” appear on screen, and we get flashbacks to Arjun romancing a woman named Jahnvi (Vedika Pinto) and Sooraj gambling, drinking, and partying with white women (the surest sign that he’s a degenerate).
This cut to the past feels so jarring because it’s not clear who is flashing back. It doesn’t occur because one of the characters is reminiscing or explaining information to the police. It happens because it’s the simplest way for director Vardhan Ketkar (from a screenplay by Aseem Arora and Magizh Thirumeni) to do character establishment without keeping track of details that might conflict with the present-day storyline.
It’s extra lazy because the police are going to interrogate both of the suspects about alibis and motives, and they’re going to interview witnesses and acquaintances of those involved in the crime. All of this background information could have been revealed organically through the course of the police investigation.
Relying on clunky flashbacks does two things. It centers the story on Arjun and Sooraj — and more specifically on the actor playing them. The characters themselves are not that interesting, and Kapur doesn’t do anything in his performance to differentiate them. Second, it neuters the impact the police officers — specifically Shivani — have on the story. This is especially weird because the film is edited to give Shivani a lot of stone-faced reaction shots, visually indicating that she’s supposed to play a more important role in the story than she actually does. She can hardly be considered a co-lead, despite appearing on the film’s poster.
Even when the police investigation takes center stage, the story isn’t allowed to develop organically. Supporting characters are conjured solely to advance the plot, disappearing into the ether once they’ve outlived their convenience. Mystery fans will be disappointed because all the truly important information is saved for a last-minute revelation, meaning there’s no point in trying to guess who the killer is beforehand. With such awful pacing, Gumraah‘s resolution feels manufactured, not inevitable.