Streaming on Disney+ Hotstar, Cuttputlli, directed by Ranjit M Tewari, is a thriller where a serial killer kidnaps, tortures and murders young, teenage school girls in the small town of Kasauli in Himachal Pradesh. The police force under a rookie cop, Arjan Sethi (Akshay Kumar), begin their investigation to hunt down the criminal. Though having some strong base material to work on from the Tamil film, Ratsasan (2018), Cuttputlli ends up as quite an inferior remake of the original.
Arjan Sethi is a thirty-six years old (Yes, we’re told and supposed to believe that Akshay Kumar, about to be 55, is 36!) aspiring filmmaker, who has a keen interest in the psychologies of serial killers. Following extensive research, he has written a film script dealing with serial murders. But the film producers of the Punjabi film Industry that he meets to get his script produced are more interested in making mostly comedies and family dramas. So, Arjan is compelled to join the police force as a low rank officer, where he works under his brother-in-law, Narinder Singh (Chandrachur Singh). Soon, a teenage school girl is brutally murdered and Arjan tries to convince his SHO Parmar (Sargun Mehta) that this murder is the work of a serial killer. However, she superciliously dismisses Arjan’s thoughts on the murder. But when a second killing takes place, she realises he could be right and puts her belief in him. The rest of the film sees how Arjan, with his intelligence and acumen, finally nabs and kills the culprit.
While adapting the Tamil screenplay by Ram Kumar, who also directed Ratsasan, to Hindi, screenwriter Aseem Arora has trimmed down the original film’s 152 minutes running time to a crisper 134 minutes. But by doing so, Arora has not displayed any brilliance in tightening the script. He ends up brutally murdering the very soul of the film. Consequently, Cuttputlli sees one event succeed the other with such hurriedness that the film completely loses dramatic and emotional focus. So, even as murder follows murder, we are unable to empathize or feel for the predicament of the characters. Instead of being on the edge of our seats as Arjan gets closer and closer to identifying and capturing the killer, we hardly feel any thrill or excitement. By now, we are beyond caring. Despite the hurriedness of the narrative flow in the thriller bits, director Tewari seems content to give far too much time to Arjan’s romance with school teacher Divya (Rakul Preet Singh). It might have helped if the romance was treated well but even that isn’t so as the sequences appear badly dated. To make things worse, in a film already suffering from weak writing and even weaker execution, the biggest letdown is its climax. We have the serial killer narrating his tragic backstory without any provocation or probing whatsoever, making it feel like an unnecessary monologue that is most lazily scripted.
The technical team attempts to salvage what it can and not all of it is successful. Rajeev Ravi, the cinematographer, expertly captures the dark tone of the film through his moody lighting, lensing and framings. Though Chandan Arora’s editing maintains the fast pace to beef up tension, he is let down by the tepid direction. The background score by Julius Packiam synchronizes well with the emotion of the scenes. But the songs composed by Tanishk Bagchi, Dr Zeus and Aditya Dev are not at all melodious and are a letdown.
Coming to the performances, Akshay Kumar does perform sincerely with utmost conviction. However, the lack of depth in his characterization does him in. Rakul Preet Singh is reduced to a character draped in a fashionable sari, whose prime function is merely to serve as the love interest of the protagonist. Chandrachur Singh and Hrishitaa Bhatt, who play the role of Arjan’s brother-in-law and sister respectively, are written with such insignificance that they make no impact at all. Joshua LeClair makes for a forgettable villain. In fact, it is only Sargun Mehta, who shines in the role of a determined cop, who will leave no stone unturned to seek out the truth.
Overall, Cuttputlli unravels in a manner that feels worn out and uninvolving to say the least. What could and should have been a bone-chilling thriller ends up being highly dull, insipid and and more lifeless than the corpses we see in the film.
Hindi, Thriller, Color