By Subhash K. Jha
Show: "Hostages" on Hotstar; Director: Sudhir Mishra; Cast: Ronit Roy, Tisca Chopra, Parvin Dabas, Dalip Tahil; Rating: **
Sitting through the 10 artificially frenetic episodes of this thriller is a slog. Not because of any lack of tempo and tumult (both of which you will find aplenty), but because of a glaring absence of plausibility in the plot.
Adapted from an Israeli series, the desi avatar of this improbable thriller boasts of some strong performances. The power of the actors is considerably dimmed by the plot, which reads like the amateur attempt by a teenager to win the first prize at a school level literary competition.
There are way too many aberrations for this thriller about a well-appointed family held hostage to the thrilling.
The long-forgotten kitschy feature film "36 Ghante" could be the inspiration for this weak-kneed thriller, bolstered by the most absurd motivations for crime imagined for the screen in the longest time.
While the ever-dependable Ronit Roy deals with his private army of masked hostage takers, each nursing his own grudge (and one of them even carrying the grudge to bed right in the midst of a hostage situation), Parvin Dabas is the patriarch of the family held hostage. He seems to play an even more vile character than the criminals, an educationist with financial misdemeanours to deal with.
Parvin does his best to wrap his head around a character who revels in thoughtless decisions. It is a losing battle.
Tisca is the surgeon whose hands, like Lady MacBeth, are tainted with blood. She is asked to finish off the Chief Minister on the operation table (the Oath, I swear, be damned) or else her family will be gunned down.
Incredibly, the 'family' moves around the house filled with communication gadgets and still doesn't send out an SOS message to the police or friends. Maybe they never watched "Desperate Hours". But there is hope: a young army man shows up and here there is a pause from the preposterousness for some genuine thrills.
But by then the plot has lost its way in the feverish flurry of simulated excitement, the kind we feel when attending a rigged s?ance.
Despite the presence of reliably sincere actors, there is something deeply insincere about this project, as if done with the non-creative purpose of paying off an old debt.
Old-hand director Sudhir Mishra is known to be raw, visceral and authentic in his cinema. In "Hostages", Mishra is anything but that.
At one point, the son of the captive family sarcastically asks one of the on-guard masked marauders if it's his fantasy to see the boy naked. Some such voyeuristic instinct seems to have triggered off this actorly actioner.
The actors will survive the setback. But would we?