Dial 100: Manoj Bajpayee’s acting masterclass supported by Neena Gupta and Sakshi Tanwar

Dial 100 hinges on a distraught mother seeking justice but the focus of the camera is squarely on Manoj Bajpayee's face, voice and body language.

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Written and directed by Rensil D’Silva, Dial 100 is an intense slow-burner that revolves around a police officer who must pull out the stops to save his family. This is conventional territory for suspense writers who seek to explore the lengths to which a man will go to protect those he loves the most.

Dial 100 hinges on a distraught mother seeking justice but the focus of the camera is squarely on Manoj Bajpayee’s face, voice and body language. The lead actor is in impeccable form. He lends the film an edge that serves to a great extent to offset the drawbacks of the screenplay.

Much of the early part of Dial 100 plays out in the form of phone conversations between Nikhil, who heads the Mumbai Police emergency control room, and a mysterious woman who has made a distress call to reveal to the cop – she asks for him by name to the latter’s bafflement – that she has made up her mind to end her life.

The emphasis of Dial 100 isn’t so much on the physical action that ensues as on the mind games that Seema plays with Nikhil. So, there aren’t too many explosive moments in the film. The atmospherics contribute their bit to creating the ambience that the showdown needs.

Dial 100, produced by Sony Pictures Films India and streaming on Zee5, is visually monotonous but that definitely isn’t because cinematographer Anuj Rakesh Dhawan isn’t at his best. The opening sequence in which Nikhil drives to work through a monsoon downpour evokes a sense of what is to come.

The interiors of the Emergency Response and Surveillance Control and Command Centre, Nikhil’s workplace, are filmed in a way that conveys the drudgery of the surveillance work that the cops do. But when the action shifts beyond the confines of the policeman’s workspace, Dial 100, in terms of the compositions, ceases to be as arresting as its initial passages.

The film is, however, crisply edited by Asif Ali Shaikh, which ensures that it has a certain degree of momentum even when it slips into what resembles an auto-pilot mode.

Dial 100 is watchable because of the kind of Manoj Bajpayee acting masterclass that no longer catches us by surprise so accustomed are we to it. He is ably supported by his two key co-actors, Neena Gupta and Sakshi Tanwar, who play two distressed mothers whose paths cross in circumstances that lead to the ill-fated encounter at the heart of the film.

Also in the cast is Nandu Madhav, who makes an impression playing a character relegated to insignificance for the most part. However, in the only scene in which the spotlight shifts ever so slightly towards him, he makes every moment count.

Dial 100 is steady without being spectacular. The moments that work – need we say that they are all propelled principally by Bajpayee’s presence – are good enough to make amends for the ones that don’t.- By Saibal Chatterjee, NDTV

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