Sequels are tricky things we have had a surfeit of them in recent years and though the branding gives them the initial push,the films ultimately survive or perish on their standalone merits. They are also of two kinds: the true sequels that take the characters forward into the next episode/adventure (like Double Dhamaal) or less frequently those that have the spirit of the brand (like Mukesh Bhatt-Mohit Suris Raaz – The Mystery Continues) and tell stories of a similar tenor,which are that much more difficult to make because there are no familiar loved characters.
It is this challenging terrain that Mohit Suri,one of our more promising young directors,takes up again after Raaz and,as in that sequel,he breaks new ground,though some may not take kindly to the fact that Murder 2 does not have the classical kind of suspense. Suri has always made it a point to spotlight a social issue in his films (including Raaz that depicted how multinational companies exploit our countrymen) and this time he takes up the cause of trafficking in women and also delves into a psychopaths mental state.
As usual,Suris hero is gray and there is scope for redemption,depending on circumstances. Illicit love was the keynote of Murder (2004) but here this aspect is given a 180-degree flip. Arjun Bhagwat (Emraan Hashmi) is an ex-cop who does everything illegal to make money except traffic in girls and has an open relationship with model Priya (Jacqueline Fernandez) that gives the erotic quotient to the sequel far higher than in the original. Arjun is assigned the task of locating several call-girls (who have gone missing) by Samir (Shekhar Shukla) who arranges them for clients.
Working partly in tandem with the cops,who are under pressure not to bring things out in the open,Arjun discovers a gruesome truth involving Dheeraj Pandey (Prashant Narayanan),a mentally sick man who has even tortured his wife and whose latest victim is teenager Reshma (Sulagna Panigrahi) who has taken to the flesh trade to support her widowed mother and siblings. And Reshmas fate awakens Arjuns dormant conscience.
Murder 2 is unabashedly bold,erotic and yes,gruesome. The violence may put off some viewers,but there is little doubt that it is a gripping though essentially predictable saga. Also,there are some flaws that do not come into prominence because of the pace of the script,like it is never explained why Dheerajs case has to be hushed up by top-level cops. Also,the back-stories of both Arjun and Priya lack punch considering that there are hints of something special in them that will come out later or have a bearing on the plot.
Technically superb,the film boasts of a fabulous background score (Raju Singh is back in the Vishesh fold) and some good songs like Phir mohabbat,Aa zaraa and Aye khuda (in that order) and has the gritty emotional intensity of the best of the Bhatts films that was woefully missing in most of their recent outings like Jashnn and Crook. Whether the box-office sees huge success or not (Murder was the biggest hit of 2004 and one of Hindi cinemas last Golden Jubilees),the fact remains that,as in the Raaz sequel,this film has gone beyond the earlier one,and it is happily not a factory product capitalising on the previous success with a similar,clichéd plot.
The actors are sincere and Emraans impact in yet another not-too-fresh-for-him role shows his calibre. Prashant Narayanan is spot-on and packs a wallop. Jacqueline,in an ill-sketched role,fares better than in her past films. Sulagna makes a mark,as does the actor who plays the pimp.
One star for the audacity of the films content,one for the script and direction and one for the performances,background score and some songs.