Visceral images, stilted shadows, slow-motion breezes, sepia tints… all aided and honourably abetted by that atmosphere-enhancing revelation – colour-grading!?? Karam is visually astounding, but is there any substance to it?
The title pertains to one’s deeds or “Actions”, those of our protagonist John [Abraham] – a self-assured hit man. It’s when a hit goes wrong and John ends up massacring a young family – in an oh so stylised manner – that things start to go awry. Girlfriend Shalini [Chopra] pleads with him for a better way of life away from the bloodshed, but is giving up going to be so easy?
Debutante director Sanjay F. Gupta is one of the whiz-kids of Indian cinema today. A visionary, a genius, hugely talented, and significantly under-rated as a cinematographer. In terms of the visuals he captures and the depth he brings with them – Gupta is way ahead of his time. With some exceptional work to his credit [Qayamat, Kambakht Ishq] and having shot some ground-breaking music videos, he reminds one of style auteur Tarsem [The Cell].
Each frame dripping with style, atmosphere, and angst by the bucket-load. No surprise then that he chose the gangster genre, and decided to crank it up a few notches with his gloss and visual allure. Unfortunately though, Gupta’s story-telling [and evidently script-sense] leave a lot to be desired.
The transition from maestro to auteur is somewhat lacking… although a feast to the eyes, the script and the direction just don’t pass muster. Despite a few noteworthy scenes, the script is incoherent and there are gaping spasms of frankly superfluous banter. What could have been told in a fraction of the running time, has been stretched to over 2 hours – causing the film to drag, with damning effect.
We can’t exactly call this an extended pop video [though special mention must be given to the ethereal song picturisations] but the narrative meanders and is sluggish at times. Besides the lacklustre pace there are a few well executed set-pieces, including the face-off at the bank, as well as the track ‘Tera Hi Karam’. I also found the transsexual rival gangster kingpin a tad disturbing, mainly for his taste in bras and heels…
Karam stars former supermodel John Abraham and Miss World  Priyanka Chopra. Beautiful people to match the stunning visuals, but again I think it’s testament to Gupta’s eye that with everything else that’s happening in the frame, the leads look distinctly ordinary – or simply apt. In the same breath, the pretty faces and prettier frames can’t hide an unimpressive script.
The film is definitely innovative, but not taut enough to be a thriller, nor engaging enough to work as a drama. The sum of all its’ parts producing a disappointingly average outcome.
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