REVIEW: Dead bodies piling up, clueless cops and an elusive killer whose motive is as mysterious as the killer himself. It’s a familiar story for a serial killer saga that plays out in the picturesque rolling hills of Kasuali – a sleepy hill station rocked by gruesome murders of innocent teenage girls. Untouched by such chilling crimes, the local cops have barely any experience or expertise to tackle a case of such mind-numbing cruelty and precision. Enter Arjan Sethi – a struggling director, who has been studying serial killers for his script that unfortunately has no takers. Reluctantly, he takes up a junior level job in the Kasuali police force that is in denial of a serial killer lurking in their town. So it’s time for Arjan to put his knowledge about the anatomy of a killer’s mind to test.
Director Ranjit Tewari and his writer Aseem Arrora build a real world around this whodunit that moves at a consistent pace with regular spurts of tension and thrill. The film justifies its name ‘Cuttputlli’ – the kind of wordplay you will understand after watching it. It’s a sharp adaptation of a Tamil film ‘Ratsasan’, which was in turn based on a chilling true story of a Russian killer, convicted of killing seven teenage boys in and around Russian Soviet between 1964 and 1985.
This means the source material is quite strong and so intriguing that it immediately evokes interest in genre fans. However, there are times when the sheer naivety of the writing sticks out. Some of the telltale signs given by the killer and the predictability of his next move is so apparent that as an audience we constantly seem to outwit the investigators. Akshay Kumar’s struggle to be taken seriously by his superiors feels real and the actor makes every effort to look the part of a 36-year-old bachelor, as projected in the film. He is back in the uniform but here he is in a much restrained avatar than his usual fiery self. Rakul Preet looks resplendent in a simplistic role of a school teacher. She makes her presence felt in the limited scope of her role. Sargun Mehta delivers comfortably as a tough talking top cop. Chandrachur Singh is aptly cast as Arjan’s wise brother-in-law.
A crime thriller needs a terrific background score. One that doesn’t interfere with the storytelling but heightens the tension in the narrative. ‘Cuttputlli’ does well in that department. The action is natural and the blood and gore are kept to a minimum despite the abject depravity of the killings. Chandan Arora’s edit is crisp but you cannot help wanting to race down to the big reveal in the end.
With its cold and damp setting in a nondescript hill town, ‘Cuttputlli’ gets the eerie atmospherics of a campy whodunit quite right. It goes to the extremes of a serial killer’s psychopathic exploits keeping in mind the sensibilities of its target audience.