How many fistfights, punctuated by the ratatat of gunfire, can one sit through in a film? I found myself asking the question after what was possibly the third one here, or maybe the fourth — they all looked like replays of the previous one, all backflips, body feints, punches, grapples and slides. Engrossed in trying to figure out (i) how many baddies had taken over the hospital, (ii) how many had been involved and perished in fighting our one-man army, (iii) and how many more I would have to endure before the end credits rolled, I realised that the film had moved to another fistfight. However, thankfully, and not surprisingly given what had gone before, I had not missed anything, because though our one-man fighting machine had probably moved from one floor of the hospital under siege to another, the narrative hadn’t budged at all.
Vivaan (Vidyut Jammwal, all ripped muscles and one-note expression) is an MMA trainer, whose wife Anshika (Rukmini Maitra, making her Hindi film debut) has just undergone a complicated surgery. As the couple prepares for Anshika’s release, a group of baddies led by Saju (Chandan Roy Sanyal) take over the hospital. It turns out that a convicted arms dealer is undergoing a pacemaker replacement and the baddies are here to get him out safely.
They hold the patients, including Anshika, hostage, leading Vivaan to undertake the rescue mission all on his own with little help from a battalion of Mumbai Police led by ACP Jayati Bhargav (Neha Dhupia) stationed outside the hospital premises.
For what is intended as a slam-bang actioner, Sanak is devoid of all thrills. The proceedings seem to be on autopilot from the get-go (including the sappy romantic exchanges between Vivaan and Anshika in the first 20-odd minutes that set up the film), with nary a spark or intrigue. Unless you consider Vivaan’s tendency for hypoglycaemia as an interesting character trait for a superhero, which, unfortunately, leads to one of the film’s most ridiculous ‘action’ sequences.
Nothing, not even Chandan Roy Sanyal’s mildly interesting performance as the whistling baddie who does not want to go over-budget with his bullets, can salvage the woebegone writing. Sample nuggets like ‘Hum toh tumko Mogambo samjha, tum toh Rambo nikla’ (I thought you were Mogamba, turns out you are Rambo). More disturbingly, there’s a preteen who is an expert with guns and explosives (he even diffuses a bomb — all child’s play as far as the filmmakers are concerned). In the middle of all the action, Vivaan asks this precocious kid, ‘Are you ready to kill the bad guys?’ Pat comes the reply, ‘I was born ready, uncle.’ Really…Ah, well!
The dictionary defines ‘sanak’ as an obsession, an eccentricity. Just in case we missed the point the writers have the characters articulating the word a few times: ‘Main sanak mein aa gaya toh…’ ‘Tu dekhega meri sanak…’ One wishes there was some ‘sanak’ in the making of this strictly-by-the-numbers dead-on-arrival actioner. Finally, we have the film’s logline: Hope Under Siege. It’s the viewer’s sensibilities under siege here. And there’s no sliver of hope till the end credits roll to put him out of his misery.
Cast: Vidyut Jammwal, Chandan Roy Sanyal, Rukmini Maitra, Neha Dhupia, Kiran Karmakar
Director: Kanishk Varma
Platform: Disney + Hotstar
Rating: One star
(Shantanu Ray Chaudhuri is an award-winning publisher, editor and a film buff)