Dhokha: Round D Corner review: The dhokhas here would make Burger King’s double whopper look thin

Simple on the outside, but Kookie Gulati’s psychological thriller has many layers to it. Aparshakti Khurrana shines in his maiden intense role.

Rating: 2.5 / 5

By Mayur Lookhar

It’s a Friday filled with couple of psychological thrillers. Viewers can catch R. Balki’s ‘killer of critics’ saga Chup [2022] and Kookie Gulati is warning you of Dhokha: Round D Corner [2022].  Though not backed by marquee names, the Kookie Gulati film throws up a unique hostage crisis. 

Sanchi [Khushalii Kumar], a delusional disorder patient is held captive in her home by Haq Gul [Aparshakti Khurrana], a convicted Kashmiri militant. The terrorist had escaped while being transferred from Yerwada jail to Arthur Road jail. He flees to the nearest housing society, where he breaks into Sanchi’s home. How he’d wish to have more than one hostage.

Much of her frail mental health Is down due to the fractious relationship with her husband Yatharth Sinha [R. Madhavan]. Sanchi began the day demanding a divorce. Later, Sinha gets the bad news about her wife being held hostage by a fugitive terrorist on a really bad news network. He doesn’t hide his wife’s mental issues which further compounds the situation for top cop Inspector Harichandra Malik [Darshan Kumaar].

On the face of it, this would seem like a simple hostage drama, but what complicates the matter is the various stories that each one of Sanchi, Gul, Yatharth and Malik tell. It’s these stories/versions that raise suspicions over each one of the four protagonists. 

A Lashkar-e-Taiba terrorist is ideally assumed to be a cold murderer. Why would then a Gul be swayed by a pretty hostage’s intermittent charms? In one such bizarre moment, the alleged terrorist agrees to deload his gun and come down to the ground floor in the hope that the woman would stick to their escape plan. What’s equally bizarre is how neither Inspector Malik nor his troops strike at the unexpected opportune moment. There’s more inexplicable behaviour by Malik and his team. A lone terrorist has held one woman captive in the third floor of the Spring Shine tower in Mumbai’s Mazgaon area.  Surely, Malik and later the Mumbai ATS [Anti-Terrorism Squad] has enough skilled snipers to neutralize a threat that is not very far from their shooting range. Maybe going higher [upper floors] would have had its technical challenges. Also, in such a critical situation, Mumbai police has arranged an enclosure that serves tea, and also acts as a smoking zone for Malik and Yatharth.

The events, actions, inactions in the first half make you question the intent and the competence of the principal protagonists. The average writing, screenplay, performance, Amar Mohile’s unwarranted deafening background score hardly build any engagement in the first half.  Another cringeworthy media portrayal makes you shut your eyes and ears. You fear, the only ‘dhokha’ [betrayal] here would be with the paying audience. 

If it is a thriller, hold your fire till the Kookie crumbles. And with a surname like Gulati [catapult], trust director Kookie to stir the pot aplenty. When the cookies crumble, the many layered dhokas here would make Burger King’s Double Whopper look thin. Dhokha: Round D Corner reveals its true colours at the business end, the twist and turns all making sense of the earlier actions/inactions.  Though the many layers unfold themselves, a viewer is still in a bind as to what really transpired that evening? The different versions throw couple of possibilities. A better second half helps Dhokha: Round D Corner earn our respect.

Having endured a dhokha of propulsive proportions in Rocketry [2022], why would R. Madhavan look for another dhokha, and that too Round D Corner? Looking at his first half performance, one can safely say that you wouldn’t bet on R. Madhavan in a game of poker.  The seasoned actor comes into his own in the second half.

Darshan Kumaar is back to playing a cop and facing a Kashmiri again. Inspector Malik’s trouble shooting measures are questionable. While narrating Gul’s backstory, Malik is pretty cold in revealing how 13 children were killed in the terror attack orchestrated by Gul. Though a likable guy, Kumaar’s shows familiar frailties. The talent is very much there, but Kumaar needs to up the intensity.

How ironical that for a woman named Khushalii, the debutante actor has to endure despair, delusional disorder in her first feature.  A late entrant to the film industry, Khushalii deserves credit for not picking a run of the mill stuff. She’s worked hard to get that toned body, and Khushalii flaunts it regularly in the film.  She has a gifted tone, but the debutante is let down by average writing. We’re no expert on delusional disorder patients, but Khushalii is fairly decent in her portrayal. Nepotism pressure will always be there, but Khushalii certainly has some potential.

For a guy named Aparshakti [limitless power], Ayushmann Khurrana’s younger brother has largely featured in meek, light-hearted roles.  Dhokha: Round D Corner [2020] brings out the intense actor in Aparshakti. However, Gul, though, has an emotional side to him too that make you question, is he really fit to be a cold-blooded Lashkar terrorist? The modus operandi of these notorious terror groups is usually fidayeen [suicide] attacks. For a terrorist being transferred from jail to another, we’re surprised by the tidy casuals that Gul sports. The reviewer is no Kashmiri, but Aparshakti impresses with his accent. He is the one consistent performer who holds the film together.

Both The Big Bull [2021] and now Dhokha: Round D Corner [2022] suggest Kookie Gulati is a filmmaker who likes intriguing subjects. Despite its flaws, Dhokha: Round D Corner [2022] feels an upgrade from The Big Bull. The stories-within-the-story compel you to tread onto this Dhokha: Round D Corner.

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