"Judgementall Hai Kya" celebrates the bizarre, at the cost of giving in to glaring flaws, much like the grammatical gaffe in its title.
At the film's core is the tested good-triumphs-over-evil formula, although done in a way few Bollywood efforts have ever tried. Quirky storytelling mixes black humour and moody suspense with a sombre subtext that draws from the "Ramayan" to drive home its comment on violence against women.
This is a very different Bollywood film. Which also means it may not fit everyone's definition of entertainment.
Bollywood debutant director Prakash Kovelamudi probably isn't worrying on that count, what with Kangana Ranaut heading the cast along with Rajkummar Rao. The duo sets off intriguing chemistry in what is essentially a story of hate rather than romance. Together, they remain the biggest asset of the film.
Kovelamudi makes interesting use of psychedelic colours and an arresting background score to highlight the bleak world of his protagonist. Wanton hues of Holi soak the screen in the opening scenes, ironically taking you through the disturbing back story of the film's central character Bobby as a little girl.
That contrast between the screenplay and its audio-visual impact continues as the story moves forward. The grown-up Bobby (Kangana) is now a struggling voiceover artist, and clearly all is not well with her. She has been to the mental asylum and back, is prone to hallucinations, and brutal childhood memory has left the scar of acute psychosis in her mind.
The first half builds up well, blending drama with humour and introducing interesting characters such as Bobby's manager-cum-wannabe boyfriend (Hussain Dalal). The story really takes off when the brooding Keshav (Rajkummar) and his wife Reema (Amyra Dastur) move in as tenants in Bobby's house. Even as Bobby somehow starts suspecting Keshav is not the nice guy he pretends to be, the plot introduces a wild spin. Reema is killed, and Bobby is convinced her husband is the culprit. No one including the police, however, will believe her.
You go into the post-interval portion hoping for fireworks. However, Kanika Dhillon's writing seems less assured moving into the finalÃ©. The drama gets serious, but the story never quite sets up an engaging cat-and-mouse between Bobby and Keshav. Unconvincing coincidences are forced into the screenplay in order to create scope for twists, and Bobby's hallucinations get repetitive.
For a film that seeks to shock with an ending that virtually turns the story on its head, the climax is a predictable one. The writing and execution should have been sharper towards the end.
The film has very few characters, which means the lead players - particularly Kangana - gets to occupy most of the screen space. The actress has made a career essaying characters that are off their rocker, and she brings alive the tailormade Bobby effortlessly. Rajkummar Rao employs trademark screen-presence to keep you guessing about the mysterious Keshav.
Among the prop cast, Amrita Puri and Hussein Dalal are impressive in minor characters, while Jimmy Shergill's tryst with unimportant roles inexplicably continues.
Satish Kaushik and Brijendra Kala are introduced in the first half as the cops investigating Reema's murder. Despite their instant impact upon entry, they don't get beyond a couple of scenes.
"Judgementall Hai Kya" has its flaws. The film's novelty factor, however, is simply too tempting to gloss over. Don't be too judgemental about its flaws, and you might just love this one.
(Vinayak Chakravorty can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)