The Knock Out Review

Somewhere inside Mani Shankar's latest escapade is a hilarious comedy yearning to break free from the stifling clutches of its over-serious guardians. 'Knock Out' is an endless succession of flashes, quick cuts, and eye roll moments, and looks as if the production team had learnt their art doing work experience under the influence of drugs at an abattoir next door to a nudist camp. Such is the one-dimensional nature of the slabs of meat masquerading as characters that it's hard to care for their fates, and a painfully contrived desh bhakti intrigue coupled with Irrfan Khan's otherworldly hair hardly helps the cause. It's business as usual at plagiarising camp Bollywood, with very little in the way of fresh ideas or an innovative visual style that would revitalize the hokey industry in any way. My condolences to Joel Schumacher, the director of 'Phone Booth'.

 Unless its a  Krista Allen film, watching women playing scantily clad TV journalists with bad accents is not my cup of tea. At the same time, honesty requires me to acknowledge that Kangana Ranaut's Nidhi Shrivastav is a truly well-fleshed out and effective example of something that I don't like.  Armed with an  upper torso exhibiting breathlessness and Shankar's camera lingering on her legs, Kangana's Nidhi is someone straight out of a DVD featuring horny cookie cutter party animals, bare breasted babes and boozers who frolic through ho-hum sex 'n slaughter pathological proceedings. The original and thrilling 'Phone Booth' had a certain low-rent elegance about it, and this over the top, whiplash-edited update slash  ripoff loses that too. Producer Sohail Maklai's idea of  repackaging Phone Booth for the sole purpose of raking in crores from foolish audiences is most noble, but heaven knows why he thought he'd make money by casting a droning Sanjay Dutt. Mr Dutt exudes the same old Mumbaiya charisma, but with all the finesse of a blind choreographer directing an arthritic dancer. Ultimately, 'Knock Out' is destined to become exactly what most Bollywood ripoffs are - a sleepover rite of passage, specifically the moment when discerning viewers realise they can do much, much better.

So here we have banker Irrfan Khan with a wig from Nicolas Cage's basement, held hostage in a phone booth by a napping Sanjay Dutt brandishing a sniper. Naturally, media houses have a field day, with Kangana Ranaut screaming into the mike, unintentionally doling out a most excellent Elmer Fudd impression. Thrown in are Gulshan Grover, Sushant and 'Shootout at Lokhandwala' director Apoorva Lakhia in bit roles, falling over each other in a struggle to hide their paychecks behind their backs. And if that weren't enough, the climax is curiously reminiscent of  the superb 'A Wednesday', thus raising the bar for unoriginality and flat-out atrocity.  True to form, Shankar's editor Shyam Salgaonkar and cinematographer Natarajan have once again worked their signature brand of ultra-stylish, faux-gritty mediocrity, thus stripping Knock Out of any kind of charm.  With this story and budget Shankar and Maklai had all the tools at their disposal to create tense scenes that are both unique and shocking in a desi context, but there is really only one action scene that is remotely notable, and that involves a close up shot of a camera held at the heaving, sweaty chest of Kangana Ranaut.

'Knock Out' is simply a pointless exercise beyond paying off Mani Shankar's sixth mortgage. Although the one thing this Bollywood ripoff - number 984, by my count - does achieve, is it makes the maestro's 'Rudraksh' look like a freaking masterpiece. Even Baba Ramdev, with his prodigious powers of focus and restraint would froth with anger then snooze through this rancid mess.

First published on on October 15, 2010.

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