…is pretty good. Don’t know why it’s been panned in most quarters. I thought it was a lot more honest than many other Bollywood films – the ones that almost seem to feel guilty about letting their characters have too much fun, and stick in some faux-moralising every now and then. (Bunty aur Babli being a good example.) There are elements of that in Bluffmaster: at the end of the film it’s clear that the Abhishek Bachchan character, a con man, has been through a therapeutic experience – but there’s also something about his crooked, knowing smile that makes you wonder if there’s another twist just around the corner.
The film incorporates elements from David Fincher’s The Game (with Michael Douglas and Sean Penn) and the underappreciated Nicholas Cage-starrer Matchstick Men (in fact Abhishek’s character even has the same name as Cage’s – Roy) – but it isn’t a shameless rip-off by any means. However, if you’ve seen either of those movies, you’ll probably figure out what the big twist in this one is. I’m not saying any more.
Boman Irani, fine actor though he is, didn’t completely cut it for me in his role as a homily-dispensing doctor. But Ritesh Deshmukh as Roy’s sidekick (a role as nicely written and performed as Arshad Warsi’s Circuit in Munnabhai) and Nana Patekar as a self-worshipping bad guy were delightful to watch, and Abhishek was better than I’ve ever seen him before (certainly much better than his overly solemn turn in Sarkar). Priyanka Chopra was, well, there.
I was afraid this was going to be another entry in the New Bollywood Posturing series: lots of wipes, fancy camerawork and MTV-style visual gimmickry, actors striking fancy poses like in boy-band music videos and making sad attempts to look Cool. There was a little of that but it was done with panache and it never seemed too self-conscious – for instance, Ritesh and Abhishek are so natural (and occasionally so goofy) in some of the dance sequences that it doesn’t feel like they’re reaching for style at the expense of spontaneity. (Contrast this with the woefully intrusive “Nach Baliye” sequence in Bunty aur Babli.) Most of Bluffmaster is like that. It works.
P.S. Here’s a review of Matchstick Men, which I wrote for The Statesman a couple of years ago. It’s never a bad time to revisit that very underrated film.