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Siraj Syed

Siraj Syed is the India Correspondent for and a member of FIPRESCI, the International Federation of Film Critics. He is a Film Festival Correspondent since 1976, Film-critic since 1969 and a Feature-writer since 1970. He is also an acting and dialogue coach. 



High Jack, Review: Hitting a new low

High Jack, Review: Hitting a new low

Several theories come up when you try and analyse what went wrong with a potentially high scoring black comedy. Firstly, it seems to be incomplete, with large chunks either not written at all or left out on the editing table. The second possibility is that the censor board did not take too kindly to a stoner subject and chopped out major scenes. It is also possible that the production worked with a skeletal script and tried to improvise as they went along, but the team went on tangential paths, resulting in a big hotchpotch. Lastly--and I sincerely hope this is not true—one or more of the High Jack creative team decided to experiment with substances stronger than the stuff former cricketer Rahul Dravid warns us about before the screening of any film in India.

Rakesh, an out of luck DJ who goes by the cool name of Rock-esh, has just found out that the gig he was to perform in Goa, has been cancelled. He is in urgent need of money to save his doctor Dad’s clinic from loan-sharks, and the gig would have paid him Rs. 2 lakh, but he now finds himself broke. A pub owner puts him on to an African drug-peddler named ‘Albela’, and, in desperation, he agrees to carry a ‘packet’ on his flight to Delhi. Albela deposits Rs. 2 lakh as advance into his account and promises to pay another Rs 2 lakh on delivery. Rakesh sees the check-in counter girl crying and asks her what the problem is. She replies that the airline, Udaan Air, is shutting down, and this is the last flight it is operating. The future of the employees is now uncertain. Rakesh moves on to board the aircraft. He doesn’t realise what’s in the packet, and manages to pass security and customs without a hitch.

A bunch of four devastated employees of Udaan (‘udaan’ means flight) Air decide to hijack its last flight, in a bid to recover pending dues by stealing the box of gold hidden in the cargo by the owner. This the very flight Rakesh is travelling on. With him are flying a bunch of interesting and some weird passengers. The hijackers are armed but obvious amateurs. Things take a funny turn when people on the flight accidentally get high on the dope that Rakesh mixes in the water, including the hijackers. Their leader knocks out one pilot and asks the lady co-pilot to take the plane to Kochi in Kerala. Back in Goa, the owner of the airline is told about the hijack and panics, because the gold is unaccounted, and he could now be exposed. But he is a shrewd operator, and has a Plan B in place: a crack mercenary is on board, in disguise, to guard his caché.

Interesting stuff, when you read. The story thread, credited to Adhir Bhat is no doubt exciting. But the major credit for writing, and the sole credit for direction, is the domain of Akarsh Khurana. Khurana has earlier written some much talked-about screenplays. All his experience comes up for questioning, when he delivers a bumpy ride like High Jack.

Hollywood has its own models of aeroplane comedies. In comparison, the screenplay here fills the story with too many characters and most of them remain mere fillers. Developments range from a handful logical actions-reactions to ludicrous and totally incredible. A woman who is travelling with a young child who is crying loudly demands Rs. 3,000 from a hijacker to move to a back seat, because she says she paid Rs. 3,000 extra for the seat of her choice, and he obliges.

Besides drugs, a bunch of other issues surface. Sexist exchanges take place between the Chief Hijacker and the female co-pilot. A cabin crew named Amanda, who is most certainly a man in drag, is the butt of snide comments about gays. A passenger tells his wife off when she orders Chicken Lahori, Lahore being in enemy territory—Pakistan. The same man then brainwashes a match-fixing cricketer to pick up a gun and shoot the Chief hijacker, thereby compensating for his corruption as a cricketer. Among the funny moments are the lament of an Arab passenger that the four Udaan employees who carried out hijacking beat him to it and the breaking into a bhajan of an old lady, which is carried on the public address system. It is initially amusing to see an old lady getting close to Rakesh after he spikes her drink, but Khurana decides to beat it to death, with Rakesh constantly complaining of being touched “inappropriately”.

The entire shooting team of the film kept travelling to new cities and the journey included three days in Aurangabad, three days in Mumbai, three days in Gujarat and 20 days in Delhi. The film also shot in Madh Island, a Mumbai suburb, for four days. That must have been the climax. All this adds up to 33 days. I am sure had the team introspected for 16 ½ days as well, we would have had a much smoother flight.

Sumeet Vyas (Aakarshan, English Vinglish, Parched) as Rakesh ‘DJ Rock-esh’ looks stoned most of the time. Just when he strikes a normal pose, somebody tells him to get back into character, or so I presume. The Khurana-Vyas duo had previously worked in TVF web series Tripling, Permanent Room-mates, and are collaborating again for Tripling 2. Having known each other for ten years, they should have known better. Mantra (former radio jockey with Radio Mirchi, Puranjit Dasgupta in real life; Tum Mile, Game, Bheja Fry 2, Hum Tum Shabana) as Vinit, the Chief of security at Udaan Air and the Chief hijacker shows good potential but is saddled with repetitive, inane dialogue.

Sonnalli Seygall (Pyaar Ka Punchnama 1 and 2, Wedding Pullav) as Dilshaad, the co-pilot, looks the part. She is made to convey that she is constantly up to something, but she never is. Kumud Mishra (Jolly LLB 2, Rustom, Sultan) as Mr. Taneja, the man who is involved in almost everything that happens, tries to pass of all his antics as jokes, most of which convince nobody. Shiv Kumar Subramaniam (Stanley ka Dabba, 2 States, Bangistan) plays the airline owner and his character might have been inspired by Vijay Mallya, a real-life airline owner whose Kingfisher airlines went bust a few years ago. Natasha Rastogi (Talvar, Jigariyaa, Amit Sahni Ki List) as Mrs. Taneja, the Aunty who eats Lahori Chicken, touches inappropriately and sings a bhajan, enjoys herself uninhibitedly.

Taaruk Raina as Parth, the nerd who sticks to Rakesh like a leech, is silly yet endearing. Priyanshu Painyuli as Chaitanya, a tainted cricketer is made to overact. In support, we have Nipun Dharmadhikari, Ashar Khurana, Sarthak Kakkar, Muzammil Qureshi, Sarang Sathye and Radhika Bangia,

Why would such acclaimed producer-directors as Vikramaditya Motwane and Vikas Bahl want to back projects like High Jack only the two gentlemen would know, in their wisdom?

Incidentally, we read that before settling for High Jack, these two titles were in contention: High on a Plane and Ud Gaye Tote (literally meaning the parrots flew away, but the use is idiomatic). Should they have considered: Hi, jacked! and Rote Tote (crying parrots) too?

High Jack’s release was delayed for four weeks reportedly by the censors. Wish Uddan Air’s final flight had been hijacked by the Arab and the peddler named Albela (!). Maybe they would know their job! How about a double hijack, with the Udaan Air nincompoops on one side and the black Arab-black African Albela AA combine on the other? That would be some black comedy.

Rating: * ½



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About Siraj Syed

Syed Siraj
(Siraj Associates)

Siraj Syed is a film-critic since 1970 and a Former President of the Freelance Film Journalists' Combine of India.

He is the India Correspondent of and a member of FIPRESCI, the international Federation of Film Critics, Munich, Germany

Siraj Syed has contributed over 1,015 articles on cinema, international film festivals, conventions, exhibitions, etc., most recently, at IFFI (Goa), MIFF (Mumbai), MFF/MAMI (Mumbai) and CommunicAsia (Singapore). He often edits film festival daily bulletins.

He is also an actor and a dubbing artiste. Further, he has been teaching media, acting and dubbing at over 30 institutes in India and Singapore, since 1984.

Bandra West, Mumbai


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