Dir.  Prawal Raman. India. 2011.

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“404’ is a psychological thriller with director turned actor Nishikant Kamath playing one of the important leads. The film tries to project a medical condition , bi-polar disorder, as the basis for it’s psychological thrills- and that gambit works well for most of the film’s runtime. It’s only the last fifteen-twenty minutes that bring forth questions that remain unanswered and therefore put the entire run of story in jeopardy.

Director Prawal Raman ( Darna Mana Hai, Darna Zaroori Hai, Gayab) whohas also  written the story and screenplay, seems to be making this genre his main forte. His previous films have been well received and the only reason why this one may not achieve that distinction is because it has complex content  and lacks clarity due to an inconsistent form. Despite that, the film manages to grab your attention and it provide a fair bit of tension-but not of the nail-biting variety. The tension obtained here is developed from a sense of curiosity due to the sly narrative spiel and twisted intentions of the principal characters.

Abhimanyu (Rajvvir Arora) is one of the first year  medical students being ragged mercilessly by the  seniors but he is alone when he stands up fearlessly and complains to Professor of Psychiatric medicine, holder of numerous degrees, Dr. Aniruddh (Nishikant Kamat) .Of course he has to pay a price. Those who ragged him step up the pressure and invariably the braveheart begins to succumb to it. Abhi insists on a transfer to a hostel room which has remained closed for the past three years (because of a suicide committed by Gaurav Gupte, a past student subjected to ragging).  Following sustained pressure engineered by non-repentant seniors, he begins to hallucinate, believing in ghosts and tries to convince his seemingly rationalist professor of their existence.

Prawal Raman’s story idea is complex and complicated.  It’s basically a case of biting off more than he could chew. The depiction of the bipolar condition is suspect and the hinging of the predicative twist towards the end on that weighs down the entire effort and raises serious questions about loopholes in the screenplay itself. Though slow and unenergetic,  his  narrative is absorbing  because it is concentrated on characters and their motivations. But not everyone stands tall on closer scrutiny. The good doctor’s wife (Tisca Chopra) who is also a psychiatry practitioner in the same med school  does not come across strongly. Her character is never developed fully.  Even Abhi the protagonist/victim appears too even tempered and his behaviour ungoverned by moods to support the end-play that the director/writer has engineered. Nishikant Kamat appears to have the talent to hold his own as an actor. Rajvvir Arora, a Ranbir lookalike has presence, Imaad is noticeable, while Satish Kaushik  and Tisca Chopra  do their best to prop-up ill-defined roles. At best this would be an interesting outing-certainly not as cerebral as it’s been made out to be.

Rating:  * * *

Johnson Thomas

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