Katik Calling KartikCast: Farhan Akhtar, Deepika Padukone, Ram Kapoor, Shefali Chhaya; Director: Vijay Lalwani; Rating: 2 out of 5.

The first rule of Fight Club is – you do not make an outdated movie. Wait, what? Lets back up a bit.

While walking into the screening of ‘Karthik Calling Karthik’ my mobile phone rang, and a sneering, grating voice spoke: ‘This is Farhan speaking. I do know how to make an effective psychological thriller. I know I must keep viewers guessing, provide several solid jolts, and finally lead the awesome build up to a perfectly acceptable ending. Heck I could even add a few more twists to satisfy the die hardest of my fans. But not this time. Karthik forced me to make a bad film. He wants to kill my acting career. He said its for the greater good. So this time I will rob you in broad daylight. This time I annoy you with unintentional comedy. You Are Finished!’

At exactly five in the morning, for reasons I can only share with Vijay Lalwani I woke up and began writing this review. Farhan Akhtar produced and stars in this generally lunatic, occasionally pathetic and more often comically inept endeavor. ‘Karthik Calling Karthik’ isn’t a film, it’s a catalog of cliched dialogue. Its a boring, formulaic mix of psycho babble and Wikipedia recitation. The only element of suspense is whether the movie will show the trailer of ‘Housefull’ before the closing credits roll.

The biggest disappointment is that ‘Karthik Calling Karthik’ does open with its mind nicely intact, but suffers a major crisis about 40 minutes in, then bad turns to worse. Although the first part of ‘Karthik Calling Karthik’ overflows with delicious suspense and atmosphere, the film’s plot soon becomes its helpless protagonist. What we get is a profoundly stupid affair, that populates its hackneyed and obsolete storyline with cardboard characters and performers who value cash above credibility. Nothing is as it seems, because nothing matters in the least.

The dark, rainswept scene between Farhan and Deepika near the Bandra Worli sea link after the interval assures you that the storyline has indeed turned into a lame-brained nut job in desperate search of a different plot twist. The dense rain that falls is no natural rain, it’s runoff from world cinema’s bilge tank of recycled ideas. The characters are as poorly developed as the concept. A doctor (Shefali Shah) arrives at Karthik’s home to figure out the mystery behind the call, but runs away. Then Shonali (Deepika) arrives at Karthik’s home for the same, only to run away. The outlandishness of it all makes you want to make a dash for it as well. And because you can’t bear to think that Farhan would betray us, you keep trying to convince yourself that ‘Karthik Calling Karthik’ is trying to be more than what it seems.

Performances veer from outstanding to wooden. Its heartbreaking to see the incredibly versatile Farhan in this film – his gait, his range and finer nuances are commendable. Deepika looks hot – her acting’s not. Her dialogue delivery is deadpan, while her expressions are nonexistent. Vijay Lalwani’s direction suffers due to his own unimaginative script. The cinematography by Sanu Varghese is top notch, and SEL’s excellent music goes well with Midival Punditz & Karsh Kale’s snappy background score. However, the film’s merits are crushed by the pressure of the the story’s big revelation (or the lack of it) which makes you feel totally cheated.

Final verdict? When some people talk about how much they hated 2005′s Tamil film ‘Anniyan’ for being unreasonably unviable, I think they must mean this film.

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