Film review: 'Table No 21': The curse of the back-story

Friday, 4 January 2013 - 10:12pm IST | Place: Mumbai | Agency: dna

Table No 21 may not be the perfect start to 2013 we were looking for, but it’s a well-paced thriller with some highs and quite a few lows, and it’s never boring.

Film: Table No 21
Director: Aditya Datt
Cast: Paresh Rawal, Rajeev Khandelwal, Tina Desae
Rating: ***

Indian filmmakers – specifically Hindi ones – have always, annoyingly, felt this need to ‘explain’ the story, using pointless dialogues to spell out every last detail about plot and character. In other cases – like Table No 21 – you have what you call the ‘back-story’, a smaller part of the narrative, used to explain character motivation, or to help put pieces of the jigsaw together. The back-story itself isn’t a problem; Thakur taking his revenge on Gabbar Singh in Sholay wouldn’t have been as rewarding if you hadn’t witnessed how brutally the dacoit killed his family.

However, in a film like Table No 21, which is supposed to be a straightforward, snappy thriller that keeps you on the edge of your seat for a little under two hours, to have a back-story is the worst idea possible, especially since it’s not required. Worse, it comes at a point when you want the film to come to a quick finish. You have invested over 90 minutes already, enjoying bits, not caring much about others, and want to know how the story ties up together eventually. Then comes the back-story.

Table No 21, however, is a reasonably decent effort. It’s fairly well-shot (Ravi Walia), has good actors, and manages to hold your interest for the most part. A couple, celebrating ten years of being together, win a free trip to Fiji (the country, suspiciously, seems to provide more than just a setting; rebate, for example). Once there, they meet a resort owner who tempts them with an offer they find hard to refuse – an opportunity to win Rs21 crore by participating in a reality show. The show involves the couple being asked eight questions, and performing eight tasks, with people around the world tuning in on the Internet. The game has only one rule – both lovers need to tell the truth.

I watched this awful American indie called True Love last year, about a couple on the verge of marriage getting kidnapped and being thrown into two different cells. I never found how it ended because I stopped watching it 30 minutes in. Table No 21 has a similar plot, but is thankfully more watchable. It benefits greatly from the performance of the ever-reliable Paresh Rawal, who’s in fine form here. Rajeev Khandewal and Tena Desae are both convincing as the young couple. The film has an interesting premise, and some very interesting sequences, a lot of which gets undone in the flashback sequences in the last 15-odd minutes of the film. Better writing (screenplay: Sheershak Anand and Shantanu Ray Chibber, dialogue: Abhijeet Deshpande) could have made the difference.

Table No 21 may not be the perfect start to 2013 we were looking for, but it’s a well-paced thriller with some highs and quite a few lows, and it’s never boring. May be, I am being slightly generous – New Year and all that – but I’ll suggest you check out Table No 21 for Paresh Rawal.

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