When Sanjay (Emraan Hashmi), a professional safe cracker wants to retire, he decides on one final heist so that he never has to worry about money again. Partnering with two dangerous criminals, they rob a bank and Sanjay is given the task of hiding the money till things cool down. Two months later Sanjay’s associates return to collect their share of the loot, but to their horror discover that Sanjay has lost his memory in an accident and is able to locate the cash.
Despite the success of his earlier efforts Aamir and No One Killed Jessica, director Raj Kumar Gupta stumbles badly with heist caper Ghanchakkar. The disjointed hybrid of a bank robbery thriller, a slapstick comedy and a domestic drama, starts in high gear but soon ambles downhill to an overwrought conclusion.
The director struggles to take his characters and story anywhere interesting
Bollywood heartthrob Emraab Hashmi plays Sanju, an unmotivated ex-criminal who’s determined to go straight but spends most of his time moping at home, much to the increasing dissatisfaction of his wife, Neetu (an over-the-top Vidya Balan who plays the film’s only significant female character as if she’s making up for the lack of other actresses). Sanju is subsequently approached to be part of one last big job by a thuggish former cohort, Pandit (Rajeesh Sharma), and his buffoonish, pistol-toting sidekick, Idris (Namit Das).,Sanju is initially reluctant, but Neetu convinces him that the bankjob is a no-brainer if they are to live the 'good’ life together.
Gupta stages the crime with an eye for compelling action; his three robbers disguise themselves behind masks of Bollywood icons Amitabh Bachchan, Utpal Dutt and Dharmendra and pull off the heist successfully. But a blow to the head leaves Sanju with a deteriorating memory. He cannot remember where he put the suitcase of cash; his partners (and, no doubt, many audience members) find this development far-fetched. They give him an ultimatum: Produce the case in seven days or Neetu dies. Rather ridiculously, they move in with the increasingly dysfunctional couple to ensure neither flees.
The director, who shares writing credits with Parveez Sheikh, succeeds at setting up an intriguing if convoluted premise, but then struggles to take his characters and story anywhere interesting. Once Sanju’s amnesia sets in, he blindly follows vague leads on the whereabouts of the cash, but the intensity isn’t sustained, despite the clock ticking on Neetu’s life. Ultimately, pointless red herrings abound and attempts at running comedy gags fall very flat.
Hashmi isn’t the most expressive of actors and he spends most of the film with a confused expression on his face (much as he did in the recent Ek Thi Daayan). After sharing the screen with Balan in her breakthrough hit The Dirty Picture, the duo’s reunion is far less successful, wasting both their talents on loud verbal clashes and silly bedroom scenes. The bad guy duo of Pandit and Idris is perhaps the film’s strangest and most ill-conceived construct; the actors are asked to convey both dim-witted goofiness and homicidal menace, often within the same scene. It never works.
A bloody denouement aboard a night-time train as Sanju’s memory all but fades away confirms Gupta can exhibit skill with framing and pace, but a gaping lack of narrative logic all but renders the outcome meaningless. The film’s big reveal on the location of the suitcase plays like a bad joke; my reaction was along the lines of 'Really? I waited two hours for that?"