Table No. 21
Synopsis: A couple struggles to make ends meet when they win an all expenses paid trip to Fiji. At the resort they meet a charming man who invites them to participate in a live game show named 'Table 21' which offers a significant financial reward. A variation of 'truth or dare', Table 21 consists of 8 personal questions that must be truthfully, with associated tasks. The main rules of the games are: 1) If you lie, you will die; 2) You can't leave the show once agree to participate; and 3) You cannot seek any external assistance.
Second honeymoon sours in erratic thriller.
Datt’s film would all be harmless genre nonsense if not for some misogynistic undertones
Aditya Datt’s Table No. 21 is wildly erratic from scene to scene, and its momentum relies far too heavily on illogical coincidence. The best that can be said of it that it makes for ‘passable’ entertainment full of pretty people emoting in a lush Fijian setting.
Having garnered much publicity for being the first domestic release of the 100th year of Indian cinema, Datt adheres to tradition by kicking off his story with a credit-sequence travelogue montage featuring married couple Vivaan (Rajeev Khandelwal) and Siya (Tena Desae) singing up a storm on the beaches and in the streets of the island nation. Celebrating their fifth wedding anniversary with a trip won in an unspecified competition, they soon meet the charming Mr. Khan (Paresh Rawal), who offers them untold wealth if they agree to answer a series of questions honestly (“If you lie... you die”) and perform tasks that begin to take on a serious menace.
Homegrown audiences will get a thrill from seeing Khandewal in the hot seat, given he hosts the popular ‘truth-or-dare’-style game show ‘Sach Ka Samna’ in which married couples expose relationship secrets. That said, the increasingly high-stakes nature of the tasks assigned Vivaan and Siya more closely represent a reworking of key elements from Sanjay Gadhvi’s Kidnap (2008) and Suneet Arora’s Chitkabrey (2011), as well Hollywood efforts such as David Fincher’s The Game (1997) and Richard Kelly’s The Box (2009).
Datt’s film would all be harmless genre nonsense if not for some misogynistic undertones in its portrayal of Desae’s professional woman, Siya. In one ill-judged flashback sequence, we learn she has been struck by a jealous ex-boyfriend; Vivaan had tricked the man into believing he had slept with Siya. Vivaan consoles his stunned wife, secretly smirking at the success of his own plan, though showing no compassion for the beating administered by her alleged lover. The film also features a thoroughly unpleasant sex club scene in which Siya, dressed like a stripper by Mr Khan, is tormented by a knife-wielding thug while tied to a pole for the pleasure of the leering patrons. (The sequence would be hard to watch at the best of times, let alone amid the current mood of angry intolerance for sex crimes in India in the wake of the gang rape and murder of a 23-year-old woman.)
There is a far-fetched twist in the film’s tale that fully explains the film’s title, though the preachy tone (and seemingly endless stream of statistical data that fills the screen to ram home the message) sits at odds with the fanciful nature of Datt’s script, which he wrote with three (!) other scribes. It is not without some well-staged dramatics and the Fijian Tourism Board would be thrilled with the coverage, but Table No. 21 is just a too over-the-top in its histrionics and downright silly in its plotting to offer any lingering impact.
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