Onto the next release of the weekend and I have had to literally go soul searching in terms of new content given how quiet this weekend has been. And through my research, I stumbled upon a Gujarati film Gulaam Chor that ended up having a direct digital release of Jio Cinema. It won’t be wrong to say that the Gujarati Film Industry has been on a roll in 2023 with several path breaking films. With films like Kutch Express, Vash and Chal Mann Jeetva Jaeeye 2, the industry known just to restrict itself primarily to family dramas has finally decided to broaden its horizon.
I did expect a similar rush with Gulaam Chor given that it was in the mystery comedy space. I was reading a little about the film and a post said – 12 crore, 12 suspects, 1 Robbery. And this caption itself was intriguing enough to have my attention. But more importantly, I was the happiest seeing that the Gujarati Film Industry was finally coming of age and wanting to move out of their comfort zone. So then does Gulaam Chor manage to impress, lets find out.
Story & Screenplay
Gulaam Chor is essentially a closed room investigation behind the robbery of 12 crore rupees with 12 people that act as suspects to the crime. Who had stolen the money? The story will remind you of films like Knives Out or even the Malayalam film 12th Man which deal with similar concepts. The small differentiating factor is that this is a mystery comedy as opposed to it being a thriller with the crime of murder being replaced with robbery. While I was on the fence with the tone of the drama(something that I shall elaborate further), full marks to the writers for attempting a nail-biting mystery which is straight out of an Agatha Christie book! The screenplay standing at less than 2 hours is taut and makes for a rather compelling watch.
The drama doesn’t waste time in getting to the point. This means that the viewers are introduced to the crime almost immediately within the first five minutes. What then kicks off is the introduction of each of the many characters wherein their back stories reveal that everyone may have a motive. While this was a great premise, I did have a fundamental issue with the tone of the drama particularly in the first hour. Usually closed room investigations are known to build on the tensions through the situations and character motivations. While this drama also does that, the introduction of comedy does dilute the rising tensions in the drama at more than one junctures. And this also had a little more to do with the form of comedy which wasn’t quite situational but more physical.
The drama scores the best when it focuses on the mystery element. That is a winner of a concept and seldom can go wrong. And here too, the fun element kicks in when the viewers are coaxed into the guessing game of finding the culprit amongst the crowd. Ideally, the writers could have also played a little with the surroundings like introduced a little rain as a part of the setup which would have added wonderfully well to the ambience. Having said that, the subtle twists and turns in the screenplay do manage to hold your attention while inducing the guessing game that escalates in a well written second hour.
The second hour keeps throwing in different scenarios with the drama unfolding from various perspectives(and hidden layers beginning to peel off). This definitely did add the much needed urgency into the drama. There are a few loopholes and creative liberties taken but it still doesn’t hamper the drama which does enter the thrill mode. After every character being accused of the crime, the guessing game is well and truly on that makes for a lip-smacking mystery that cannot really go wrong. The twists and turns are amplified in the events leading up to the final act where I did feel that the grand reveal could have been better executed. Even the reason for the crime left me a touch underwhelmed but the twists following the reveal were pretty good. Overall, the screenplay is decently well written and a good attempt utilizing a classic mystery template.
Dialogues, Music & Direction
The dialogues are decently well written but the comedy through the lines was a bit of a hit and a miss(other than the Harshad ‘Mehta’ sequences). That though was compensated well through some nicely penned lines when the drama enters the thrill mode. The music is pretty good and sets the mood of the drama right. The BGM does score well too as does the cinematography and editing, both of which contribute well with the shots and maintaining the scene transitions, respectively. Director Viral Shah does a pretty good job here. Yes, the comedy wasn’t quite on point and the director did falter in the execution of the final revelation but in between the director does enough and more to hold your attention and for that he does deserve an applause!
The performances are fabulous by the ensemble cast. Esmeralda Laurent as Joana and Imran Siddi as David are fun to watch with the writers cleverly using their language barrier for the humour. Bhavini Jani as Ba and Ragi Jani as Lala are first rate. Hardik Sangani as Prince Ha Ha(I did laugh at the name) does a pretty good job. Ojas Rawal does manage to tickle your funny bone with his act of Harshad, a take on Harshad Mehta from Scam 1992. Mehul Kajaria as Darshan is well restrained in a job done very well. Bhumika Barot as Lata and Dilip Rawal as Hitesh are well cast and both manage to impress despite a limited screen time. Vandana Pathak as Seema is amazing and she brings all her experience to keep her character in check as opposed to going overboard.
Vyoma Nandi as Saloni looks pretty and does a wonderful job with her character that will keep you guessing. Dharmesh Vyas as DK and his portrayal of a flop superstar doubling up as a method actor will put a smile on your face. Kamlesh Ozza as Ashwin is phenomenal here and does a stupendous job in a rather layered character. Vineeta Joshee as Arti is excellent in such a meaty role wherein her screen presence is top notch. Malhar Thakar in his second release in as many weeks(after Scoop) is tremendous to watch here. He balances his act his an uncanny sense of calmness and a tinge of humour that allows the viewers to don on the detective hat alongside him.
Despite its flaws, Gulaam Chor is a fun mystery drama with some good performances that can be watched once. It is heartening to see the Gujarati Film Industry move out of their comfort zone and push boundaries. To many more such films! Available on Jio Cinema.