Kaizad Gustad’s Jackpot has a very similar problem to The Desolation of Smaug — a waferthin storyline that needs extensive padding in order to become a full-length movie. Unlike Jackson, however, Gustad doesn’t have an entire mythology, not even a family tree or two, to pick side plots from. His response is to dress up what is a simple heist story into a noiry tale of deceit and deception, with Naseeruddin Shah gloriously hamming it up to fill the difference. The results are wearying to watch; what Gustad tries to present as a plot intricately tied up around itself, looks more like a crumpled piece of paper.
It’s been 15 years since Guy Ritchie forged a new sensibility for the heist movie, and there have been dozens of imitations in that time, both in Hollywood and Bollywood. The concept has been established, tinkered with, subverted even, so many times that its basic structure has now become formulaic. The scamsters in Jackpot spend a lot of time and energy grappling with the idea that no one trusts anyone else. But if they had, like Gustad must have, watched any of these films, say A Fish Called Wanda, this really shouldn’t have been that alien a concept. You’re scamming a guy for Rs 10 crore, guys. It’s entirely possible that someone would entertain thoughts of you doublecrossing them or vice versa. It’s not like these suspicions add drama, either, as they mostly take form as petulant accusations made, more often than not, while staring at Sunny Leone’s chest.
Gustad relies far too much on the well-worn device of the gradual reveal, telling the story mainly through flashbacks prefaced by the latest inane catchphrase to be uttered being displayed in full psychedelic glory. Warping the timeline can make any plot seem more exciting, but the endless iterations, each less believable than the last, of what is in essence a very basic plot makes it just seem more and more insipid. It’s very simple to guess who’s conning who — the film makes no pretence, laying its cards on the table in the opening scene itself — the only suspense is how. And while the ending might have worked for Agatha Christie in Murder on the Orient Express, here it looks and feels like a cop-out.
Sachin Joshi’s Francis is a con-artist (emphasis, he says again and again, on ‘artist’) with a plan. He wants to con the owner of an offshore gambling den in Panjim’s Mandovi river, the titular Jackpot casino. He gets the owner, known only as ‘Boss’ (a dreadlocked Shah) to let him rig a poker tournament at Jackpot so that a ringer wins, then have him swoop in and steal the money (thus getting the insurance company to pay up a matching amount). Once he does so, he finds an empty suitcase. The rest of the film plays on the suspense of who has the money, as well as establishing the long con that all this was obviously a part of. Like with most things Goan, there’s a land scam involved.
As Boss, Shah is given full license to be as overblown as he likes. However lacking in substance his role is, he seems to having fun. That, combined with Sunny Leone’s utter inability to deliver one convincing line of dialogue or Makarand Deshpande’s highly ridiculous Inspector Tukaram, he provides moments of campy humour that do salvage the film somewhat. Hey, if they’re not laughing with you, they might as well laugh at you. It’ll keep their attention away from how bad your film is.