It’s a week of slim pickings. Between ‘Rajdhani Express’ and ‘Table No. 21’, I flipped a coin and landed up in Fiji. That’s where the table has been laid out, largely to promote the picturesque islands — but a promotional short might have been more fruitful than this jumbo of a mumbo psycho-thriller. If the outcome will be remembered at all, it will be for Paresh Rawal’s hair-styling. Whoever created his look must have been impressed by the headlock of the magic lamp genie from an illustrated edition of Aladin. Or of a punk rocker going ruinously bald.
Such hair-splitting apart, ‘Table No. 21’ directed by Aditya Datt, zeroes in on a couple who’re bickering over that cliched HOW-could-you-forget-our-wedding-anniversary?
Before they (Rajeev Khandelwal-Tena Desae) head for splitsville, they win a free, expenses-paid trip to Fiji. Wow-o-wow. And now their luck’s blazing like a thousand candles. Duper super!
Next: The genie-like Mr Khan (Paresh Rawal) offers them an opportunity of a wifetime – Mrs and Mr are invited to appear on a website’s game show, which has a viewership of eight million, no less. Answer eight questions, perform the dares, and the pair wins Rs 21 crores. So who needs ‘Kaun Banega Crorepati?’
Naturally, it won’t be easy for the lucky twosome to declare the whole truth, and nothing but. Also, it will be quite cheesy to carry out the dare of a liplock right in the midst of public. Hashmi can do it, Khandelwal can’t — he looks as if he’d rather be dead than kiss lips, whether in public or in private. Oh dear.
Meanwhile, Mr Khan smiles Mona Lisa-like through all the incredulous stuff, leading to a finale which strives to be explosive. Sorry but the screenplay appears to have been scrawled in such a hurry that the revelation of ‘suspense’ element leaves you unshaken and unstirred.
A plot about a reality game show requires either vaulting imagination (on the lines of ‘Hunger Games’) or elements of hyper-realism (‘Slumdog Millionaire’). Alas, these elements are absolutely conspicuous by their absence here. A pity that, because Aditya Datt who helmed ‘Aashiq Banaya Aapne’ some seven years ago had disclosed a flair for craftsmanship and titillating raunch. This time, though, the direction is at best, slapdash. The pace, in the first-half especially, moves at bullock-cart pace. Neither are the production design, music score and editing to write home or anywhere about.
Of the cast, Rajeev Khandelwal, who was so impressive in his screen debut ‘Aamir’, is passable. Plus, it goes without saying that his TV show ‘Sach ka Samna’ – which also followed the route of truth or dare – was far more watchable than this oddity of a movie. Tena Desae – presumbaly that’s a numerologically propitious twist on Tina Desai – lacks the screen presence to be cast in a lead role. As for Paresh Rawal, he seems to be more bemused than serious about his role – sleeptalking through the entire charade.