8x10 Tasveer -- Film Review

Bottom Line: This goosebump-free supernatural thriller is undone by heavy-handed Bollywood bombast.

OAKLAND, Calif. -- A suspense story about a man with the supernatural gift to read the past through photographs is stretched to its limits -- along with the viewer's patience -- in a turgid tale of intrigue that squanders the talents of one of India's leading action stars. Business is likely to be slow, despite an ongoing strike by Bollywood film producers that is holding up the release of competing films in the weeks ahead.

Akshay Kumar ("Chandni Chowk to China," "Singh is Kinng") is Jai Puri, a muscle-bound good guy with the distinctly PC job of Canadian forest ranger. Jai is not only able to sprint like an Olympian and dive from 100-foot cliffs in the pursuit of criminal evidence -- bear poachers, beware! -- but he also manages to fill out his crisp khaki uniform with admirable style.

Jai is relentlessly pursuing a far-fetched theory about the murder of his father, a super-wealthy Canadian-Indian oil baron. Jai's got a dark secret or two in his past, but he's also got a unique gift: He can peer into any photograph (tasveer) and divine the immediate past of its subject. So he tries to solve the mystery of his father's murder by staring at a photo of the man posed happily on a yacht, surrounded by his wife and friends, in the moments before he falls off the boat and drowns.

Nagesh Kukunoor is a respected filmmaker known for his highly personal and individualistic style. "8x10 Tasveer's" story itself shows mild promise, but Kukunoor's direction sinks the film to subsoap caliber. This is Kukunoor's first foray into suspense, and it's clear he got all his ideas from watching other films, most likely those of M. Night Shyamalan.

A few comical moments, which in more skillful hands would provide an absurdist change of tone, merely fall flat. An intrusive soundtrack fluctuates between daytime drama and James Newton Howard, with a touch of Punjabi pop.

Kumar, who also is making his debut in the suspense genre, merely grits his teeth throughout. Whether that's in character or the actor himself counting the minutes until the director calls "cut" is anyone's guess.

Opened: Friday, April 3 (Sahara One Motion Pictures)
Cast: Akshay Kumar, Ayesha Takia, Sharmila Tagore, Javed Jaffrey, Girish Karnad, Anant Mahadevan
Director-screenwriter: Nagesh Kukunoor
Producer: Shailendra Singh
Executive producer: Elahe Hiptoola
Director of photography: Vikas Sivaraman
Costume designer: Shabina Khan
Music: Salim-Sulaiman, Bohemia
No rating, 125 minutes
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