Cast: Paresh Rawal, Rajeev Khandelwal, Tina Desae, Hanif Hilal
Director: Aditya Datt
It’s unlikely you’ll come out unmoved by the big reveal at the end of Table No 21, whose deeply disturbing finale delivers a hard punch to the gut. But the problem is, while director Aditya Datt and his writers may have cracked a sure-shot climax, they invest very little in the rest of this sloppy thriller.
Rajeev Khandelwal and Tina Desae star as middle-class married couple Vivaan and Sia, who’ve won a weeklong holiday to Fiji in a lucky draw. Paresh Rawal, playing the owner of a live gaming website, seduces the pair into participating in a simple-sounding game in exchange for big prize money. The couple must honestly answer eight yes-or-no-type questions about their life, and perform one task per question to take home Rs 21 crores. But when the questions become increasingly uncomfortable and the tasks life threatening, it becomes clear that there’s more to this game than meets the eye.
Despite starting out curiously enough, the film loses steam early on because of the uninspired writing. The screenplay fails to pack in that edge-of-the-seat tension required for a supposedly urgent thriller of this nature. So even as the couple must confront their fears, reconcile with their past, and question their own love for each other, Datt never really raises the stakes in a way that makes you feel any fear for them. Some bits in fact, are positively comical, although unintentionally so…like that scene in which an important character is humiliated by having her hair completely shaved. The resulting scene, in which she sports an obviously fake spotless egg-shaped head, will leave you in splits.
Table No 21 squanders its potential. The film’s ending is bold, but little else is consistent or gripping. It’s also unforgivably lazy and amateurish in its approach to characterization and narrative. We’re introduced to likeable protagonists at the start of the film, we’re meant to care for them as they struggle in difficult circumstances, then abruptly and without any warning they’re stripped off their likeability so the film can deliver its shocking climax.
I’m going with two out of five for director Aditya Datt’s Table No 21. Even dependable actors like Paresh Rawal and Rajeev Khandelwal sleepwalk through their roles.