Film: Knock Out
Cast: Sanjay Dutt, Irrfan Khan, Kangna Ranaut, Sushant Singh, Gulshan Grover
Director: Mani Shankar
Rating: Good



Agnibho Gangopadhyay

Knock Out needed to be released. For the uncanny similarity of the promotional clips with the Hollywood psychological thriller Phone Booth is so glaring that 20th Century Fox Studio (makers of Phone Booth) unsuccessfully attempted to put a stay on the release of Knock Out.
Why did the Fox legal team fail? The answer is that Mani Shankar, director of Knock Out, has cleverly appropriated the setting of Phone Booth—well, a phone booth, sniper, the ethical crises in a hostage situation, moral vigilantism—but has magnified the scope of the original screenplay so much that it feels like a different film altogether. A difference of degree, if high enough, can amount to a difference of kind. One has to admire, however grudgingly, the director’s silken, evolutionary adaptation.
A top-ranked CBI officer, the patriotic Veer Vijay Singh (Sanjay Dutt) is peeved and angry about black money in India. Thousands of crores of taxpayer’s money, and from welfare expenditure for the poor and the underprivileged are diverted to the vaults of Swiss Bank by the corrupt nexus of political leaders, corporate giants and bureaucrats. He hatches a plan to make a start in reverting that money to India. A Batman-like grip on technology, a Steven Seagal-like mastery over martial arts and a Bhagat Singh’s heart helps him in this quest. This highly stylised role is essayed with panache by Sanjubaba. He acts really well and mouths the patriotic but edgy dialogues with effortless conviction.
Now on to his plan. Tony alias Bacchu (Irrfan Khan) is one of the cogs in the black market machinery in India. A trusted sidekick of a corrupt minister (Gulshan Grover, ever-dependable as a baddie) with the rather incongruous acronym Bapuji, he leads a dissipated life — cheating on his wife, bedding girls galore, buying super-expensive shoes and watches — while posing as an investment banker in the public eye. He knows the code to Rs 32,000 crores of black money kept in Swiss bank by Bapuji. Sanjay Dutt traps him in a phone booth operating from a nearby highrise, holds him hostage, makes him a ridiculous figure to the public (Irrfan is made to dance to a raunchy item number!) and awakens the cops to his dubious transactions. But he cocoons Irrfan too. Irrfan’s initial arrogance, the consequent vulnerability and the final remorse — these are brought out wonderfully well by the master actor that Irrfan is.
In supporting roles, Kangna Ranaut as the sassy reporter and Sushant Singh as the honest cop are adequate. This is a fast-paced, songless thriller with a social responsibility, in the ilk of A Wednesday. In the high-pitch of nationalist agenda, however, it loses the subtle nuances and the existential crisis that the film it was seemingly inspired from, Phone Booth, was replete with. However, this film tries to replace the individual predicaments explored in Phone Booth with a pertinent social issue. With its heart in the right place, this film will not disappoint you.