When a film begins to go wrong from Reel 2, you know the director is in serious trouble. After a point you wonder why on earth this film with its gawky special effects was made in the first place!
There is an effort in every Ram Gopal Varma film to try something new, to push the limits. But in "Gayab", one wonders what he is trying to achieve.
The basic premise of an inconspicuous common man (played by Tusshar Kapoor) who gets his wish of vanishing into thin air is promising -- though for home-viewing purposes. It allows the maltreated protagonist a certain lascivious leeway into places where civilized society does not allow us to enter.
Hence, our mousy hero Vishnu Prasad is suddenly and violently ubiquitous. In a prolonged celebration of secluded erotica, he barges into his dream-girl's hi-tech bedroom (some classy art décor by Jeena Shetty and Rashid Rangrez) as she is bathing.
She is on an overdrive with video games, and yet has the audacity to be shocked when her boyfriend Sameer (Ramman Trikha) confesses he once, just once, tried drugs.
A strange dichotomy runs through this tale of wish fulfilment. The characters are clean, uncomplicated, simple people caught in a bizarre situation that fails to energize the plot or the audience.
Though some of the early scenes (like when the still-visible hero is slapped by the heroine's boyfriend at a café) have the power to touch you, the touch does not continue with the film. The narrative grows progressively powerless after Vishnu acquires supernatural powers.
To director Prawaal Raman's credit, he does not overdo the emotions. And except for the protagonist's mother, all the characters behave 'normally', given the abnormal scenario of a hero whom no one can see -- except the audience.
Hence, while the audience is watching (and the characters are not), Vishnu gets saucy and bold. Many of his misdemeanors of invisibility involve yanking off his tormentor's trousers or tripping them over.
Anil Kapoor was invisible in "Mr India". But he never really got down to yanking off anything!
Prawaal Raman's invisible man is more like a mischievous kid. His 'lost-in-space' pranks amuse for a while. But then he begins to get seriously nasty, unleashing a desperate havoc on the city, which is totally at odds with the sweet-natured character.
Starting off as a feel good fable on being invisible, "Gayab" gets lost in a tale of an obsessive lover-boy who must get the girl at any cost. Midway, when Vishnu decides to rob a bank, you know he has lost the plot completely. And so has the director.
Yet, if "Gayab" is more bearable than it would seem, it is because the film is affectionately mounted. Piatro Zuercher's cinematography is like a bunch of ripe mangoes ready to be plucked! The musical numbers by Amar Mohile and Ajay Atul are interesting but too taken up with the titillating task of showing off Antara Mali's curves.
Her manic performance offsets Tusshar's cool discomfort rather well. So far busy trying to play the college dude, Tusshar finally finds his metier as the uncommonly common man. He is not scared of dropping his defences to look as vulnerable as a wet cat left to fend for itself in a dark alley.
While the lovely Natasha is wasted as Mali's mom, Ramman Trikha's beefy-boyfriend act is surprisingly free from malice. Unlike other portrayals of the 'other man', he plays a regular guy who gets pushed around.
Raghuvir Yadav fails to strike poignant notes as the bereft father (for no fault of his -- no actor can look convincing trying to embrace a man who is not there, unless that actor happens to be Sridevi i