Table No 21 is the kind of thriller that makes you feel you are smelling a fish through out. The "Something ought to be wrong, I just don't know what." turns into a regular twist in the tale without throwing you off balance. The social message shoved down your throat in the end doesn't help the film's cause either.
A married couple, very much in love with each other, is pulled into playing a online reality game along the lines of The Moment of Truth. Interestingly enough, the Indian version of the game, Sacch Ka Saamna was hosted by the hero of Table No 21's, Rajeev Khandelwal. Anyway, the idea, of a couple having to complete a task related to the question just answered - a truth and dare of sorts - is very engaging. Unfortunately, it all ends up being very much as expected and is topped off with a social message.
My concern with films with social message is that an audience like me needs no convincing. I'm already on the story-teller's side of the issue. The people who need to watch the film are the one's who commit the crime. And even if they were to watch a film like this, would that make a difference in their behavior. Even powerful films might not have that effect, and Table No 21 isn't even hard-hitting enough. So, what's the point? Sorry, talking about the kind of crime in question would be giving the movie away.
Table No 21 doesn't come off as strong enough, despite some grueling stuff that the protagonists/antagonists go through, because you don't quite connect with the characters. You know they are grey and that's a brilliant thing in today's world of black and white characters in Hindi films. Yet, you don't feel for them even when they are going through some of the most mentally cruel ordeals. Their happiness and sorrow seems fake.
Some of the disconnect also seems to be because of the order in which the tasks pan out. Instead of escalating into more rigorous and painful ones. So after having gone through a major ordeal the couple's dilemma seems fake when there is a relatively simpler one comes after that. Sure, some of them are more symbolic tortures than others, yet the symbolic pain seems artificial.
That in turn, could be because of some very functional performances by Rajeev Khandelwal and Tena Desae. Paresh Rawal trying to be his devilish best, doesn't help. Paresh Rawal's character's sidekick provides unintentional laughter while trying to look all ominous.
So, yet another potentially interesting story falls prey to mediocre execution. Yet another topic of concern in the country sees a film that is made with all the right intentions and a lot of heart, but comes across as contrived and forced.
- meetu, a part of the audience
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