MG Srinivas' film is a lot of fan service - to his leading man and the genre - and the end result is an immensely watchable two-hour flick
Story: When a prison set for privatization becomes the centre of a hostage drama, with a former CBI officer caught up in the melee, hostage negotiation and intelligence officer Chengappa (Jayaram) is called in to solve the stand-off. The man who is calling the shots in the prison is Dalavayi, (Shivarajkumar), known in his circles as Big Daddy, a much-feared underworld kingpin, who has a history with Chengappa. The reason behind Dalavayi’s ‘attack’ on the prison is what Chengappa has to unravel to get to the bottom of the mystery.
Review: When actor-director MG Srinivas began speaking about his latest as a filmmaker, Ghost, the words he used to describe it were - action heist thriller – and that’s exactly what he presents. He unleashes the fanboy in him and how and gives Shivarajkumar a film that’s unabashedly stylish and massy - without unnecessary frills – in a crisp 2 hour span. The focus is on the action thriller bit, with the heist serving as the thread that binds the film together. Shivarajkumar turns on the swag, as he jumps, slides, and engages in fisticuffs with those who dare to put a spanner in the wheel of his plan. The actor is a delight to watch, even with the blue contact lenses, which explains why Srini has so many close-up shots of Shivarajkumar delivering killer lines or just deadly looks. This is fan service at its best, both for the actor and the genre.
That’s not to say that Srini has presented the cleverest screenplay there can be. There are several elements that are nothing short of incredulous and meant for elevation purpose only, like, the sequence of the gang’s exit strategy from the prison. But even when your brain wills you to laugh out at the absurdity of what plays out, you end up chuckling in approval of the execution of this sequence. It is by no means a measure of smart writing – just shrewd filmmaking that plays on the emotions of the watching audience. When a Dr Rajkumar statue comes to the aid of the gang, there are no questions asked as to how that was even possible. You get the drift, right!
Ghost is a Shivarajkumar vehicle from start-to-finish and the actor gives us his A-game. You can almost feel that he’s had a great time working on the film, whether it is in his body language or dialogue delivery – there’s a spring in his step. Malayalam actor Jayaram, who makes his Kannada film debut with Ghost, has just as much, if not more screen space than Shivarajkumar and doesn’t disappoint. The actor has dubbed for his role and although there are times when his Malayali accent comes to the fore, he’s done a fairly decent job with his Kannada diction. I guess it helps that he’s a seasoned mimicry artiste. The team had apparently approached Vijay Sethupathi for a role and I can only imagine that they wanted him as Chengappa. Boy, that would have been something if it had panned out. Hopefully, he will see Ghost, be impressed and be on board Ghost 2.
A review of Ghost deserves a special mention of Arjun Janya’s background score, which is, undoubtedly, one of the film’s greatest strengths, besides Shivarajkumar’s screen presence, of course. It was as good, if not better, as the actor’s Narasimha theme from Jailer. In fact, there were moments, when I was almost expecting that beat to erupt in the theatre. Also commendable are the dialogues by Prasanna VM and Maasthi that have mass and panache in equal measure and never feel cheesy.
After a largely positive review, if you are wondering why the rating does not necessarily match it, it’s because there were bits that could have been better. The much-talked about digital de-aging of Shivarajkumar, for instance, looks decent in still photographs and shots of him walking, etc. The minute he opens his mouth to speak you realize just how inadequate it is – the face doesn’t move or convey the right expression. The way Srini has ended the film to lead into Ghost 2, the de-aged version of Shivarajkumar will have a more prominent presence, which, unless they really up their game and invest heavily on motion capture and visual effects, will not work. That apart, the casting of Anupam Kher and Archana Jois felt like force-fits in the narrative – take her out of the equation and it would make no difference and put any other popular local actor in his place, and it’s the same story.
Verdict: Ghost is quite the thrilling two-hour ride and could just be the Dasara winner Kannada cinema has been looking for. It is, no doubt, meant for audiences who love fast-paced thrillers, punchlines, etc. It is, of course, a Shivanna fan’s delight, but more importantly, Ghost is that film that will have you walk out of the theatre contend at having had a good time. Just don’t start thinking too much!