April 15, 2023
by Carla Hay
Directed by Vardhan Ketkar
Hindi with subtitles
Culture Representation: Taking place in Delhi, India, the drama film “Gumraah” (a remake of the 2019 movie “Thadam”) features a predominantly Indian cast of characters (with a few white people) representing the working-class, middle-class and wealthy.
Culture Clash: Police have to figure out which one of two identical-looking suspects has committed a murder.
Culture Audience: “Gumraah” will appeal primarily to people who are fans of “Thadam” and murder mysteries with plot twists.
Once the first big “plot twist” is revealed in “Gumraah” about halfway through the movie, it’s a murder mystery that’s very easy to solve. However, there’s plenty of suspense and good acting to keep most viewers interested and invested in the outcome. “Gumraah” (which means “astray” in Hindi) is a worthy but not exceptional remake of the 2019 Telugu-language film “Thadam.”
Directed by Vardhan Ketkar, “Gumraah” was written by Aseem Arora and “Thadam” screenwriter Magizh Thirumeni. The movie (which takes place in Delhi, India) begins by showing the murder that is the center of the police investigation. A man in a hooded yello raincoat breaks into the high-rise apartment building home of another man and stabs him to death. This killer was caught on a phone camera by someone who happened to be taking a selfie photo on a balcony opposite of the room where the murder took place.
The murder victim was Aakash Sardana (played by Aditya Lal), who wanted to launch his own tech start-up company. After going through a divorce, Aakash had recently moved back to India from the United States. Police find out that 20 lakhs (or $2 million, in U.S. dollars) is missing from Aakash’s safe.
The main police investigators for this murder case are assistant commissioner of police Dhiren Yadav (played by Ronit Roy) and sub inspector Shivani Mathur (played by Mrunal Thakur), who has been newly appointed to the position. Shivani ends up doing most of the investigating and deductions. The diligent sub inspector in “Thadam” was also a woman.
Police soon identify the man in the video as 28-year-old Arjun Sehgal (played by Aditya Roy Kapur), who is an unlikely suspect. Arjun is a civil engineer with no history of violence or arrests. He also doesn’t appear to have a motive or any connection to the murder victim. Arjun is arrested anyway because he looks exactly like the suspect, and Arjun doesn’t have an alibi that can be verified. Arjun vehemently denies committing the murder.
Not long ater Arjun’s arrest, police apprehend a hooligan named Sooraj Rana (also played by Roy), a thief who currently works with some cronies to steal ATMs. Sooraj has been arrested for drunkenly assaulting a police officer. Sooraj has a history of arrests in other cities. After he is arrested, Sooraj is brought to the sam police station as Arjun.
It doesn’t take long for police notice that Sooraj and Arjun look exactly alike, even though they say that they don’t know each other. Sooraj doesn’t have an abili for the time that Aakash was killed. Now, there are two suspects for the murder. All the evidence indicates that only one person committed the murder. Who did it? And where exactly is the stolen 20 lakhs?
There comes a point when it’s explained why Sooraj and Arjun, who look identical, have led completely opposite lives. It’s the most obvious reason. Much of “Gumraah” shows Arjun and Sooraj, in separate interrogation rooms, telling their life stories.
And once Sooraj and Arjun find out that a look-alike suspect is also custody, Sooraj and Arjun are quick to blame the other for the murder. There will be times when one suspect looks guiltier than the other, but then the other suspect will look just as guilty. Arjun’s fiancée Jahnvi (played by Vedika Pinto) insists that Arjun isn’t capable of murder.
“Gumraah” has solid direction and capable acting, with Kapur being the obvious standout. Kapur is riveting in the two look-alike roles of Arjun and Sooraj. His acting is made easier because Sooraj and Arjun have different personalities. What’s a bigger challenge, which Kapur and the “Gumraah” screenplay admirably accomplish, is keeping viewers guessing about who is the real murderer and why the murder was committed. “Gumraah” doesn’t let up on the plot twists until the last five minutes of the movie.
Pen Marudhar Entertainment released “Gumraah” in select U.S. cinemas and in India on April 7, 2023.