You feel a jolt of adrenaline when you see Agent Agni, played by a supremely fit Kangana Ranaut, cut the villains down to size or take down a bunch of depraved thugs.
But that sense of high is short-lived when you realise that ‘Dhaakad’ has a dead-weight script that lends her punches little impact. Make no mistake that Ranaut is diabolical as a cold-blooded secret agent who goes rogue during covert operations and is deaf when her bosses tell her to abort missions. On the field, Agent Agni is always on fire and her troubled and bloody violent past haunts her present.
While it’s heartening to see a female actor in an action-driven film and doing all the heavy-lifting, it’s a pity she isn’t backed up by a solid story.
“You have begun to see yourself as this Messiah,” snarls the nasty child-trafficking gang-lord Rudraveer (Arjun Rampal) as he pummels her face in. He isn’t far from the truth. ‘Dhaakad’ is a stunt showcase for Ranaut who’s invincible on the field. She’s clinical, cold, and devoid of emotion. In the opening scene, she sprays bullets on her opponent and his blood lands on her face. She wipes it off nonchalantly and proceeds to kill some more. So far, so gory. But debutante director Razneesh Ghai — who seems to idolise Quentin Tarantino’s brand of bloody action and thrills — stumbles on making the story convincing.
Agent Agni is sent on a mission to India to bust a human-trafficking ring spearheaded by Rudraveer and his morally-depraved/ money-minded mole Rohini (Divya Dutta). They are like two putrid peas in a pod who take wicked pleasure from killing people and pimping out children. While Rampal looks menacing and brutish, his bizarre Bihari accent is a major buzz-kill. His warped and emotionally-stunted partner Rohini is as subtle as the axe that she shoves into a wooden table when angry. She merrily has her way, just like her partner in grime and crime, through some of the scenes that prove they are collectively bestial.
There’s no kind bone in their bodies, while Ranaut is this mean and lean killing machine who is keen to obliterate them. Their sparring is enjoyable in the beginning, but the ludicrous plot twists make it impossible for the viewers to stay with them for long. The sepia-toned scenes, perhaps to reflect the greyness in all its principal characters, doesn’t do much to elevate the film that relies heavily on Ranaut to pull all punches.
Make no mistake that Ranaut looks admirably in form as she hits and gets hit, but you feel a sense of fatigue when you realise that this film reeks of Tarantino overkill. The overdose of blood, butchering of body parts, and periodic bullet baths is exhausting. And the storyline that travels through continents and villains who globe-trot and change their hairstyles dramatically is a tough one to keep up with. The scene in which a ruthless Rudraveer extolls his young wards to take up arms like a hardliner fundamentalist poisoning young minds is borderline laughable.
Plus, the sordid backstory between Ranaut and her mortal enemies relies heavily on a coincidence that’s difficult to swallow. Bengali actor Saswata Chatterjee as Ranaut’s kind boss is the only soul who has kept it subtle in this film. The rest of the cast are simmering and frothing at the mouth with rage.
There were many points in the film that make you wonder if ‘Dhaakad’ was a boisterous vanity project for Ranaut, but her sure-footedness when it comes to doing stunts make it palatable. Watch this if you want to see a fierce woman flatten her demons, but be sure not to look for much logic here.
Director: Razneesh Ghai
Cast: Kangana Ranaut, Arjun Rampal, Divya Dutta, and Saswata Chatterjee
Stars: 3 out of 5