'Dial 100' review: Wrong number!

The set-up at the start of 'Dial 100' appears to hark back promisingly to Gustav Moller’s 2018 Danish thriller 'The Guilty'. However, high expectations are not what Hindi cinema quite delivers on

Photo Courtesy: Social media
Photo Courtesy: Social media

Namrata Joshi

A cop at the emergency phone centre in an SOS call with a distressed stranger on the other end. The set-up at the start of Rensil D’ Silva’s Dial 100 appears to hark back promisingly to Gustav Moller’s 2018 Danish thriller The Guilty. However, high expectations are not what Hindi cinema quite delivers on.

The Guilty was remarkably inventive in how it recreated the scene of crime through voices, whipped up tension in a one room setting, using closeups of its consummate lead actor Jakob Cedergren, while never making us foresee the bolt out of the blue climax.

Dial 100, on the other hand, is predictable to the core. You can see every move coming, even as the filmmaker burdens what should have been a brainteaser with an overdose of emotions. From a thriller Dial 100 quickly veers into the familiar family drama zone even as Senior PI Nikhil Sood (Manoj Bajpayee) tries hard to stop a woman on phone (Neena Gupta) from committing suicide. Little does he realise that it would soon lead his nagging wife Prerna (Sakshi Tanwar) and angsty, rogue teen son (Svar Kamble) into trouble and he’d be called upon to protect them. Secrets from the past, revenge and retribution is all that the film eventually adds up to while remaining resolutely dull as dishwater.

It splutters and stutters and slackens minutes into the supposed crime. Set against a rainy night in Bombay, it makes no effort to evoke the mood or atmosphere that’s up for grabs. There’s no sense of pace and urgency and even at under two hours run time, it feels flaccid, protracted and boring.

What bothered me most is the perplexing way in which the film handles the issue of parenting—the good, bad and ugly sides of it—and the strange moral compass it assigns for itself, its characters and the audience. It’s here that Dial 100 is the most unconvincing. One is never emotionally invested in the protagonists to root for them. In fact, one’s sense of justice is stacked against them. Are the antagonists the heroes of the film? Dial 100 film could have played with the moral polarities to create an interesting narrative energy. It chooses not to weigh in well on it. In the process it also ends up doing grave injustice its talented actors—not just Manoj Bajpayee and Neena Gupta but even the Marathi actor Nandu Madhav of Harishchandrachi Factory fame whose presence is made to register in the most sudden and silliest of ways. Yet another twist you would have seen coming. The only one to get some meat in this flat world is Sakshi Tanwar. She brings alive the guilt and predicament of her character with nuance and gravitas. She is the only one who stays in the mind.

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