The mystery in Ghanchakkar involves the whereabouts of a suitcase containing stolen cash. Yet, a harder puzzle to crack is figuring out just how so many talented people could make such a disappointing film.

No One Killed Jessica director Raj Kumar Gupta recruits a competent cast, but flounders with a half-cooked script that doesn’t know where to go after setting up its delicious premise. Sanju (Emran Hashmi) is a retired cat burglar-turned-full time couch potato who’s goaded by his pushy wife Neetu (Vidya Balan) into participating in one last job. What follows is a terrific bank robbery scene involving a security guard and a matka kulfi, the inventive use of movie-star masks, and the unscheduled arrival of a cop who almost foils the plan.

Nevertheless, Sanju and his two accomplices – Pandit (Rajesh Sharma) and Idrees (Namit Das) – make off with Rs 35 crores in loot. The entire cash is left with Sanju for the next three months, until the heat from the crime dies down. But when the two goons return to claim their share, they discover Sanju has lost his memory in an accident, and can’t remember either them or where he’s hidden the bounty.

Ghanchakkar has all the ingredients for a dark comedy, yet shaken and stirred they blend like oil and water. The storytelling itself is inconsistent. The plot hits the ground running, never spoon-feeding you with background information you don’t need. Then, when the two goons move into the couple’s flat while Sanju struggles with his amnesia, you have a set-up ripe for laughs. But Gupta squanders this potential with one too many dinner table scenes banging on about the same joke involving Neetu’s cooking.

Frustration sets in during the film’s flabby middle portion where nothing much really happens. The angry goons want their money…Sanju can’t remember a thing…He chases clues that lead nowhere…They bash the living daylights out of him. This routine is repeated over and over again till the line: “Paise kahan hain?” becomes embedded in your brain like a pesky metal chip! And well before it’s ultimately revealed in film’s the climax, you’ve guessed the suspense already.

It’s all such a shame because some things work nicely. The local train becomes an unlikely ‘conference room’ where the goons hatch their plans, and a running joke about a vegetable-bearing commuter is genuinely funny. The cast too, hits all the right notes. Vidya Balan offers a particularly uninhibited performance as the garrulous, fashion-disaster of a housewife; the kind of part few leading ladies would venture near, or competently pull off. Emraan Hashmi is suitably befuddled, but struggles to shine under the limited scope of his role. The two leads slip easily into the shoes of a couple stuck in a humdrum marriage.

As the desperate goons slowly losing their patience, Rajesh Sharma and Namit Das are first-rate. An unlikely team, Sharma’s manner is almost polite as the older Pandit, while Namit Das turns Idrees into a hot-headed, trigger-happy lout. In one scene that goes from icky to whacky, we watch as Idrees, midway through a raunchy phone call, ups and chases after Sanju in his underwear. 

These inspired moments then are few and far between in this lazily scripted film that leaves you bored and searching for the nearest exit. I’m going with two out of five for Ghanchakkar. The money is found in the end, but that’s 2 hours and 17 minutes of your life that you’ll never see again!

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