Director: Jeethu Joseph
Producer: Viacom18 Studios & Sunir Kheterpal
Music: Shameer Tandon, Arko
Duration: 1 hour, 50 minutes
There are mild spoilers here; nothing that will hamper your viewing experience.
Much of the film takes place over the course of a windswept monsoon night (8 hours, they say) in a forensic lab in Port Louis, Mauritius. This is always an exciting cinematic choice for a film belonging to the lately unexciting genre of suspense. It is exciting because as the duration shortens, what is at stake increases, the moments of fear and anxiety feel more drawn out and palpable.
But any efforts to create such a mood in The Body is swept up by the need to root the events of the night in over-explained flashback sequences. Maya Verma (played by Shobhita Dhulipala with shocking stiffness), rich and powerful, passed away the previous day from a heart attack. Her body, which was lying in the morgue has now gone missing. Her husband, Ajay Puri,(Emraan Hashmi in a performance that throws it back to his days of robotic nonchalance) is a prime suspect. Rishi Kapoor is on duty as the hazy and excitable Jairaj Rawal, a man still haunted by the death of his wife. (Among the damp nothingness of all the performances Kapoor’s enthusiasm sticks out rather sorely).
She is a rich industrialist, and he is an excuse for her philanthropy- a sugar mommy for him. Resentment sets in and so does a reason for murder. He is in the marriage for the money. She tries to tether him with bland jokes, (when they are getting married, in front of the sacrificial fire, she says she doesn’t want to get married because he is in it for the money. Instead of denying this allegation, he says that she is embarrassing him and should have said this before. She laughs, telling him she was joking. But the joke is on her) expensive cars, and neck kisses, the last of which he accepts rather reluctantly, alluding perhaps to the empty promise of wealth; the loneliness and desperation of being too rich.
Ajay is having an affair with Ritu. A cursory look at Ajay’s post-coital body language makes his inclinations clear. (For a moment you wonder if there is a hint of love accompanying his greed, like in Humraaz) With Maya, they are sleeping on opposite edges of the bed. With Ritu, she is lying on his chest.[perfectpullquote align=”full” bordertop=”false” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]The jump scares are effective, with the background music by Clinton Cerejo leading you up to moments before dropping you like hotcakes. (This 8 a.m. show in a quaint theatre was filled with young couples taking strategic seats to do their business. I remember a psychologist I spoke to once telling me that jump scare movies make for more memorable dates).[/perfectpullquote]
The jump scares are effective, with the background music by Clinton Cerejo leading you up to moments before dropping you like hotcakes. (This 8 a.m. show in a quaint theatre was filled with young couples taking strategic seats to do their business. I remember a psychologist I spoke to once telling me that jump scare movies make for more memorable dates). But a good thriller is never just the sum of its jump-scares. The back and forth meandering makes the run time elongated. The “twist” that comes, though unexpected, is too pat. Either that, or as a viewer you have entirely disengaged from what is going on because of the slack narration.
It is raining through the night, and at one point someone pulls the fire alarm and it rains inside the lab too. The difference between what is outside and what is inside blurs, as the internal anguishes and demons of the characters surface externally, emerging from the haze- both literal and otherwise. At the end of the film, it’s a clear morning. The resolution, or the twist, is revealed, and justice (however extrajudicial – what is with our movies glorifying such acts?) is meted out. Underwhelmed I walked out. The couples looked happy. Well, at least someone had a satisfying time at the movies.