Meet John Day, a rip off of a Spanish film called Box 507. Mr. Day is a common man who gets trapped in a web of lies and deceit. He lost his daughter to a tragic accident but has no idea she was a casualty of a huge scam. Sounds like an interesting premise for a thriller. With an ingenious actor like Naseeruddin Shah to spearhead it, this should not be a bad film at all. When you have to expand the premise into a plot, that’s when the problem starts. You have to start fleshing out characters and reveal the mysteries of the plot.
What JohnDay gets absolutely wrong is when it starts to treat it like a humdrum task, a routine exercise. It is supposed to be fun and interesting. This film seems like a collage of various plot elements and scenes from other thrillers without a single speck of originality. Yes, it is a rip-off of a film, which I haven’t seen, and I can still predict what would happen.
At the beginning of the film, the exposition is spoon-fed instead of us discovering it. “It’s been 2 years since she died”, we are told. Thanks for the information but your characters are acting like she died just yesterday. Then a scene where Nasseruddin Shah is shown in a deep reverie and he writes “What is Mahalakshi Corp?” in his diary. Ohh, so that’s what he was thinking. Silly me. I thought he was wondering how to slay the dragon outside his castle. Thanks you guys, you care about the audience so much. Later, Randeep Hooda reveals background information about him and his girlfriend the first time we see them on screen – “I should not have saved you from that drug scam”. Ohhh, so now we know why they seemed like weirdos and that’s why she looks like she’s always high. Thank you again. I would have definitely thought she was high on life in general if you did not provide me with that vital information.
In one scene he also goes on and on about his childhood where he was molested by a priest. Yes, it is one of those films. Thanks for the information yet again but your character looks like a deranged psychopath who seems like he had problems worse than this in his childhood. During all this, I felt the worst for the poor priests. Their cinematic perception is either made of them being saintly props, exorcists or pervs. There’s nothing else in between. Praise god for filmmakers like Ingmar Bergman, Robert Bresson and Elia Kazan or actors like Bing Crosby. (No not the actress Elena Kazan in this film)
Before you think this is it. That these were the only opportunities when I got to hold my head and console what’s inside it, then no. There is more. For some bizarre reason, Randeep Hooda goes rogue. A lot. He literally goes stark raving mad where he indulges in extreme violence. I would love to describe them to you in grave detail. Oh no wait, that’s the filmmakers job. Why show character information, when you can show – VIOLENCE! (Ta-da!)
Near the end of the film, Naseerudin Shah thinks it’s not just Hooda who can go batshit crazy, he can also indulge in some oral violence. While this is occurring we are subjected to the theme from Psycho.
This John Day is not John Doe. He wants tabahi not insaaf. This is not a Frank Capra comedy to reinforce your faith in life but to suck it all out of you. What we get in the end is a plodding thriller which tries very hard to do something interesting but all it has are a bag of cheap tricks and clichés. These clichés are “dark film” clichés like brooding music, characters with troubled pasts, graphic violence etc.
To top all of this, the ending is a complete cop-out. I was hoping something in the end would surprise me but it wasn’t meant to be. You know a thriller is not working when it starts to bore you. You know a film is not working when you have nothing to care about. JohnDay is a redundant filmmaking chore.