Gumraah Is A Lousy Retelling Of Graham Greene’s The Case For The Defence

Published in 1939, Graham Greene’s short story, The Case For The Defence, begins with the words, “It was the strangest murder trial I ever attended.” Vardhan Ketkar’s film, Gumraah has the potential to be a strange murder trial (if not strangest), but the telling of the story is so weak and uninspired that it never really gets anywhere. This film is a murder mystery, a crime thriller, but from the beginning of the film, you know where things are going and even though there’s murder, it’s not a mystery. There is crime, but no thrill. And if you’ve read the wonderful short story, there’s even less in the film for you.

I’m not going to give away much about the story, but we know Aditya Roy Kapoor plays a double role. The film starts with a murder, and the police assume it to be an open shut case because there’s proof against Arjun (played by Kapoor). Enter Sooraj (also played by Kapoor) and there begins the struggle to prove who the murderer is. The film’s premise has a lot of potential. Even with a story like this, it could’ve worked. But they conveniently forget about the element of thrill over and over again. There’s too much emphasis on mundane things like a missed finger print, custodian rights, an ex-lover who is later forgotten only to appear in the end, a 25 year old conflict between brothers that somehow isn’t convincing enough, a poker playing mother. Everything seems to have made sense on paper, but doesn’t really pan out in execution.

What could’ve still helped the film was the acting, but here’s a hero who hasn’t really delivered a single convincing performance in his career (except Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani) and is given a double role. He does play both Arjun and Sooraj differently but can make neither of them convincing enough for us to buy into the narrative. Even in poorly written films, a few actors are able to rise above the writing of the film. Sadly, Aditya Roy Kapoor is not that actor, yet. I hope he is able to do that in the near future, but today, his shoulders need some weightlifting practice to carry a film like Gumraah, even though he seems to be spending hours at the gym.

The other actors – Ronit Roy and Mrunal Thakur in particular – don’t have much to do. They try, like they always have but there just isn’t enough material for them to work with. At many points in the film, both their characters exclaim “Humse kya choot raha hai? (What am I missing?)” Character arc, that’s what’s missing.

All in all, crisp writing, and writing the supporting characters as “characters” would’ve made Gumraah at least bearable. In films that show these supporting characters as nothing but agencies to the main lead, their writing furthers the damage caused by a main lead who cannot really perform…

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