‘Cuttputlli’ review: Heartfelt Akshay undone by unimaginative script

After delivering four consecutive disasters – “Bell Bottom”, “Bachchan Paandey”, “Samrat Prithviraj” and “Raksha Bandhan” – at the box office, Akshay Kumar has decided to release his next film “Cuttputlli” directly on the OTT platform.

Official remake of ‘Ratsasan’, a Tamil film released in 2018, ‘Cuttputlli’ is certainly better than Akshay’s recent duds but that’s too low a bar.

Arjan Sethi (Akshay) is an aspiring filmmaker who wants to make a movie about serial killers. But after the death of his father, he gives up on his dream and reluctantly joins the police. Meanwhile, a series of murders of teenage schoolgirls has caused panic in Kasauli and its corner of Himachal Pradesh. These murders are committed by a serial killer who is on the prowl since the pattern of all murders is the same.

The Kasauli Police do not make much progress during the investigation and this is when Arjan begins to take a keen interest in the case as he has read extensively about the psychology and patterns of various killers serial. How he unravels the mystery behind the murders shapes the rest of the story.

The premise is interesting and the film boasts of some beautifully shot sequences, but the rambling script throws a spanner in the works. The subplots are meandering and unconvincing, which dulls the overall impact of the buildup. One such example is the School Teacher (Sujith Shankar) track which is devoid of both justification and plot. How can a teacher brazenly assault and harass girls in front of everyone at school without any repercussions?

Rakul Preet Singh plays Divya, Arjan’s love interest, but doesn’t have much to do in the film. The romance track takes away the thrill and only ends up distracting viewers from the main plot.

The pace at which the film moves is another hurdle. Now, slow-burn thrillers can be intensely engaging if the narrative is tense and has seminal buildup. But in the case of ‘Cuttputlli’, the pacing is slowed by mundane songs and sketchy subplots that aren’t in symphonic sync with the main story. The climax is also a sensitive point.

Akshay has to do the heavy lifting and the seasoned actor doesn’t disappoint. He elevates several streaks with his earnest performance and manages to grab the audience’s attention for a while. But its efforts are frustrated by an uneven structure and a digressive narrative.

Rakul Preet looks gorgeous but his role lacks meat and substance. Sargun Mehta as SHO Parmar certainly leaves an impact with top-notch performances. Chandrachur Singh and Hrishitaa Bhatt succeed in the rally.

Ranjit Tewari’s direction is as if as his. It deftly handles a few scenes but fails to create a tense thriller. Assem Arora’s screenplay is the film’s biggest flaw. The narrative is jarring, the subplots are too thin and unimaginative, and many scenes are made up gratuitously. Even if we tolerate many loopholes, the botched script spoils the atmosphere of the film and scuttles the gravity.

Rajeev Ravi’s cinematography is stunning and captures the scenery beautifully. Chandan Arora as an editor is competent but the banal script makes the film seem longer than it is.

‘Cuttputlli’ isn’t completely chaotic, but why would anyone settle for a bland, mundane thriller these days when there are far better whodunits available to stream on OTT platforms?