As many of us saw in Amazon Prime’s Made In Heaven (2018), Sobhita Dhulipala is a gifted actor. She’s capable of many things, provided the script uses her sensibly. In Jeethu Joseph’s The Body, we find out what Dhulipala cannot do. She can’t lip-sync to Tulsi Kumar’s Aaina, a song that sounds like the zillionth recycled rendition to Shreya Ghoshal’s Agar Tum Mil Jaao from Mohit Suri’s Zeher (2005). It’s a melody so typical of a Bhatt film that when you close your eyes, you can imagine Emraan Hashmi gazing at blue waters, while his lady-love caresses his shoulders.
Open your eyes, and you see Dhulipala doing this with very little conviction.
Joseph’s unimaginatively titled film about a missing corpse is a remake of a 2012 Spanish film of the same name. The director, who delivered the gripping Drishyam (2013) and its Tamil remake, Papanasam (2015), tries to satisfy the fans of the Emraan Hashmi brand of erotic thrillers. You know, films about a morally ambiguous man who says things like yeh marne ke baad bhi mera peechha kyun nahi chhod rahi (why won’t she leave me alone even after dying). He cheats on his wife (Sobhita Dhulipala) with a significantly younger woman (Vedhika), a student from his Chemistry class. There are ballads dedicated to the paramour in Mauritius’ most scenic locations, where Hashmi goes around singing a song that invariably means… “she’s the one.”
As already indicated by the film’s eager-to-reveal-and-impress trailer, The Body begins with the death of Dhulipala’s character, Maya Verma. A remake of Oriol Paulo’s original film, whose other film The Invisible Guest was recently adapted into Sujoy Ghosh’s Badla, the only silver lining of this drab and monumentally contrived ‘thriller’ is Dhulipala’s character. Maya (illusion?), is seen through her husband’s eyes. According to Hashmi’s character, she is a bossy wife who keeps putting her husband in his ‘place’ whenever he tries to disagree or disobey her. Being a self-made, successful businesswoman, she casually brings up their prenuptial agreement in everyday conversation. In other words, she is the textbook ‘neurotic wife’. It’s to Dhulipala’s credit that she rises above the type, and humanises her character.
There’s also Rishi Kapoor in the mix. He’s the police official in-charge of the investigation around the missing corpse. In spite of taking place in Port Louis, Mauritius, Kapoor’s character (like it happens in these films) is surrounded by ONLY Indian cops. Primarily staged inside a morgue facility during the course of a single night, it’s a legitimate question to ask as to why did the film have to be set in Mauritius. This should have been a tighter film, that allows us to feel the claustrophobia of Hashmi’s guilt-ridden character. Instead, we’re served a cranky Rishi Kapoor talking to his colleagues as if it were his late-night Twitter rendezvous. He’s somehow convinced that Hashmi has killed Dhulipala, and is dense enough to even loudly announce his suspicions.
Much like Sujoy Ghosh, even Joseph doesn’t show the courage to veer away from the original film’s preposterous climax. Even though Ghosh did a good job of keeping the audience on the knife’s edge, Joseph’s remake isn’t nearly as sleek. There’s something off with the film’s final dub too. Each time you hear a line, your mind wanders to the actor recreating that emotion inside a dubbing studio. Even the rehearsed ‘oho!’ in response to something.
During a tense moment, Hashmi’s character needs to pick up evidence from a dirty latrine and shove it down his throat. In a better film, this would have been a heart-stopping ‘eww’ moment. In The Body, it barely induces a yawn. After which the audience prepares itself for yet another flashback featuring Hashmi lip-syncing to a T-Series ballad and telling a girl… she’s the one.