A Thursday review: A stubbornly daft hostage thriller
All is excessive, unsubtle and improbable in this 129-minute revenge fantasy
Yami Gautam Dhar was torturing terrorists in Uri: The Surgical Strike. Now, in A Thursday, she’s the terrorist and the tortured party is us. In both films, the actor’s eyes flame up with a sudden unbidden rage. I wonder if she has a mental switch for this: sweet and amiable in one scene, Furiosa in another.
Cast: Yami Gautam Dhar, Atul Kulkarni, Neha Dhupia, Dimple Kapadia, Maya Sarao, Karanvir Sharma
Streaming on: Disney+ Hotstar
We open on a peaceful Colaba street. It’s another day at Little Dots playschool — the kids are frolicking. Their teacher, Naina Jaiswal, who’s been on leave, reappears a week in advance. She looks rejuvenated by the break. First, she hugs her pupils and puts on their favourite cartoon. She then locks the front and back doors and shutters the blinds. Is Naina planning a surprise test? Or something worse?
A lot worse. As she tells the cops over the phone, she’s taken the 16 toddlers hostage. What’s more, she’ll kill them one by one if her demands aren’t met. These range from the practical (five crores in the bank account) to the utterly wishful and optimistic (a sit-down with the Prime Minister). In a clever move, Dimple Kapadia plays the intervening leader, the actor’s stature and easy authority keeping the film in place. But she’s also shown to be an ‘emotional’ PM — which is a lot worse than accidental. Finishing a strategy call, she declares that tomorrow be damned, let’s focus on the present. Well, that explains Tenet.
The film is often loose with information. Naina asks for a senior cop, Javed Khan (Atul Kulkarni), to negotiate with her. When he reaches the scene, he grumbles something about ‘encounters’. Why emphasize police apathy when a later reveal is due? The female characters—including Neha Dhupia’s pregnant ACP—respond sharply to sexist remarks. It’s enough of an indication that this might be linked to the film’s central concern. A Wednesday!, from 2008, was equally unsubtle — but at least it could keep a secret.
That film petitioned for swift execution of terror convicts. I’ll leave you to guess what A Thursday is all about. Hostage thrillers are a useful genre, capable of pointing up society’s flaws. In India, though, they’re used heedlessly, and become a conduit for violent revenge fantasies. It’s a symptom of our times. I can only dread what ‘A Friday’ will bring.