Dial 100 Movie Review: Manoj Bajpayee steers an unsatisfying thriller
A cop and a caller are pulled together in Rensil D’Silva’s passable revenge story
It’s the night shift at the police emergency control room. As senior PI Nikhil Sood (Manoj Bajpayee) ascends the stairs, we see snatches of his regular workplace. A cop dozes off at his desk. Another corrects someone on call that this isn’t the ‘fire department’. It’s smart of director Rensil D’Silva to indianise the opening of Dial 100, which takes place over a single night in Mumbai. Reaching the top floor, Nikhil swipes a prayer before entering his office. He’s going to need it.
Cast: Manoj Bajpayee, Neena Gupta, Sakshi Tanwar
Director: Rensil D'Silva
Streaming on: ZEE5
Nikhil is transferred a call from a woman who sounds heavily in distress. She talks to him cryptically, pressing him for his name without revealing hers. “I just want to die…” she tells him in a crying voice. The call cuts off abruptly, but she dials back after a while. As they speak again, the control room server goes off. Finally, as Nikhil is pulling details on the mystery caller, he gets a buzz on his personal cell. To his relief, the woman’s still alive. To his shock, she’s kidnapped his wife.
Dial 100 was shot entirely during the lockdown—the midnight setting excuses the empty streets and contained locations. Some of the plot points wouldn’t work if the film was set strictly post-pandemic. Both Manoj and Neena Gupta—who plays the sad, unstable caller Seema—are ace performers, but would we really like watching them in masks? Still, it’s to Rensil’s credit that he finds a way to touch on recent events: spiking suicide rates, film stars caught up in drugs. I just wish the main action was more in sync with the overall mood he’s creating. Once Seema comes out with her plan, we’re in a familiar revenge plot. Despite the impressive nocturnal cinematography (by Anuj Rakesh Dhawan), the motivations are clear as day. “It’s no time for emotions,” Nikhil says, while the film lurches hard towards them.
There are some nice directorial touches. Spotting a stranger in the control room, Nikhil badgers him for an alibi. It’s a sign of his fastidiousness as well as his paranoid state of mind. Almost 80 per cent of the film unfolds on call; it gets talky but the changing angles and scenarios keep it visually tense. Rensil creates an intriguing world—one stretch, for example, is built around how rain impedes police work in Mumbai—but can’t bring the different parts together satisfyingly. The climax is the clumsiest in years, and the emotional kicker in the end doesn’t quite sting.
A mention of ‘Tandav Club’ may remind viewers of Manoj’s delirious cop turn in a 2016 short film. He plays them better than anyone, inhabiting their fears and anxieties and flashes of anger. He’s done it so often that Dial 100 – through no fault of its own – seems a bit routine. Neena Gupta toes the revenge thriller line, and you have to turn to Sakshi Tanwar, as Nikhil’s wife, for a more human performance. With such a solid cast, the film could have done so much more. In the end, it feels like a missed call.