Table No. 21 took me by surprise. Before I start talking about the film let me answer one question for you. Is this film worth watching? The answer is yes. It may not look appealing from the trailers but if you like films that keep you entertained, you shouldn't skip this film. You'd rather watch this than Bigg Boss, trust me.
The opening of the film is as bland as the trailers. A couple wins a free trip to Fiji and we don't give two hoots about it. The first ten minutes is certified amateur hour material, so much so that the rest of it seems like a surprise since it only gets better from here. Rajeev Khandelwal and Tena Desae play Viwaan and Siya. They look like a perfectly happy couple, too much in love perhaps. Well, obviously things can't always be hunky dory. As soon as Paresh Rawal turns up and offers them to be a part of a reality game show with a 21 crore prize money, their love is tested and the film hardly loses its grip. After playing the angry atheist in OMG Oh My God, Rawal plays a sort of God as he gives the lovers an inevitable intervention.
Many would think of The Hunger Games (2012) or even Battle Royale (2000) while watching the film (hopefully not Death Race) but Table No. 21 happens to have genuinely original story to tell (I hope?). It doesn't work on every level and doesn't delve into the questions about the vile and disgraceful social massacre in the name of entertainment that is - Reality Television. There is some other agenda here. Instead of going for sensationalism, the film has a good story to tell.
There is no question about Paresh Rawal's ability as an actor. There is one scene near the end where he manages to move you and make you feel for the character's motivation. Rajeev Khandelwal gives a competent performance as his character gets to be on the other side of Sach Ka Saamna. He should consciously do more films like this and Aamir (2008) where he is thrust in a situation he can't get out of, a series of events where he is controlled by the whims of a superior. It's about time he makes a brand out of it and chooses his films carefully. This doesn't mean he should do the same films; this and Aamir are two different movies, the only thing common is good scripting.
Tena Desae who was seen in The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel checks in to this Fijian hotel. Apart from a scene where she looks like an alien, her performance is passable. The film could have used a more refined director. Not that he didn't do his job right but certain scenes could have been handled with a bit of polish. Although, he does try to cover up his weaknesses by using music excessively.
The reason why Table No. 21 worked for me is because when you look back, each of the tasks and each of the questions have a purpose behind it. Some tasks which I first thought didn't make much sense also have link with the masterplan. The final reveal stirs you and rises above the tedium of a standard thriller, which you could catch on TV to something more substantial. I especially loved how we are made to rethink our judgments about the couple we started rooting for. I still don't know why it was called Table No. 21 though. I'm sure I missed something. (I was told by a faithful friend later that there is a reason) I still also don't understand why a life-threatening task doesn't make the couple angry as much as hair-shaving and public nudity. Something is deeply amiss here.
(Spoiler alert) (Read only after you have seen the film)
There is a dialogue in the film, which resonates with the current state of angst amongst the Indian people - â€œTeri ragging kya kar li, tujhe laga rape kiya haiâ€. The film very responsibly puts forth a mirror for the ones willing to see. Have we brought this upon ourselves? It highlights how certain actions, which may not mean much to you when you say/ do them but can invariably change the lives of others. This cannot be taken in jest. It asks us to be aware of our actions where we don't regret the things we have done or said in the past. It isn't just ragging that is a menace but the very act of speaking certain words, which could cause irreparable harm.
(End of spoilers)
Of course, this film isn't David Fincher's The Game (1997), nor is it Peter Weir's The Truman Show (1998). It doesn't have to be a great movie for me to recommend it to you, it just has to be sufficiently engaging and for you to have something to think about after you exit the theater. This film puts it all on the table. This may not be a â€œfunâ€ game, but it is worth playing once.view less