Making the switch from acclaimed ad films to full length features, Abhinay Deo has been one of Hindi cinema's most awaited directorial debutants in a long time. And with Farhan Akhtar and Ritesh Sidhwani producing his premiere venture and the Junior Bachchan starring in it, there has been constant buzz around Game, crafted by Deo as a slick action thriller on the lines of the Bourne Identity, similar in its action sequences and high thrill chases. The release is a big one for AB Jr. as well, who is keen to prove his mettle as a solo lead after the debacle of last year's Raavan and Khelein Hum Jee Jaan Sey. As a viewing reveals, however, Abhinay and Abhishek's combo offering at the box office, Game is more slick than flick.
Shot across the world in locales like Thailand, Turkey, Greece and United Kingdom, Abhinay's focus as a filmmaker seems quite lopsided, more intent on crafting beautiful visuals than the art of storytelling. Appropriately so, Kartik Vijay's cinematography is exquisite, capturing some stunning frames. However, what lets the film down is its wafer thin plot line.
A whodunit of sorts, Game revolves around five strangers, a Greece based billionaire tycoon, Kabir Malhotra; a Bollywood megastar, Vikram Kapoor; a London bred crime reporter Tisha Khanna' a Thai PM hopeful, O.P. Ramsay and an Istanbul club and casino magnate, the suave Neil Menon; all of whom gather on Malhotra's private island in Greek Samos because of a common link that they share with a mysterious missing woman called Maya. When one of the five drops dead, the other four instantly become prime suspects in a murder investigation led by Sia Agnihotri, an officer of the International Vigilance Squad.
Game's problems lie in the story itself. Penned by Althea Delmas Kaushal, who also handles the screenplay, the film's plot simply doesn't have enough teeth to bite into the audience. As a suspense thriller, the story should ideally be such that the viewer stays gripped onto what's happening next. With Game, however, the film's core mystery is simply not interesting enough to hold onto the audience's attention. For starters, Abhinay seems too busy with romantic flashbacks and random footchases through Turkey to not get tangential and slack with his plot. Also, a note for Deo: it's not really covert "surveillance" if you have your "international police officers" chasing the target across rooftops and such.
Kaushal's script also makes the conclusion and the criminal in the film painfully obvious within the first half of the film itself. Thereafter, introducing the most clichéd twists and turns into the story simply doesn't help Game's cause.
On the acting side, while Abhishek tries his best to appear suave and studied as Neil Menon, the end result is that his character seems more smug than anything else. Anupam Kher as the billionaire Kabir is fair, while Shahana Goswami as Tisha doesn't get much screentime. Ditto for Jimmy Shergill as Vikram Kapoor. Boman Irani comes out on top though as the slimy, almost arrogant O.P. Ramsay.
The main female leads in the film are both a letdown, though. While Kangana as Sia is most unconvincing in the role of an international police officer, especially with her strange accent in English, Sarah Jane Dias' much talked about screen debut goes flat. Though she shows potential, the uniform expression she adopts as Maya in all her scenes doesn't show a great range of acting skills.
Shankar Ehsaan Loy's music is better than the film itself, with tracks like kaun hai ajnabi and it's a game setting a mood that Game doesn't quite live upto. Mehki mehki, which brings Sarah Jane into the 'item number' mould is spicy and sensuous enough to raise temperatures across theatres, but doesn't have quite enough spunk to challenge numbers with more mass appeal.
Overall, while Abhinay Deo shows sophistication in the visuals that he captures his story in, the debutant doesn't quite exhibit the straight skill that interesting storytelling requires. One hopes that with another much talked about release coming up in Delhi Belly, Deo will prove his detractors wrong. For now, though, as a suspense thriller without a whole lot of suspense at its heart, this is one Game that Deo has lost.