Ajay Devgn’s Drishyam, Vidya Balan’s Kahaani, Akshay Kumar’s Khiladi – 10 popular Bollywood whodunits and how they fared at BO

Who doesn’t like a good suspense story that keeps you guessing till the end? A good mystery, be it books or movies, has the capability to keep you hooked and let you be a part of the crime solving. A proper whodunit is a very tricky proposition to make – you have to keep your target audience on their toes to let them puzzled about the identity of the killer till the very end. And when the final reveal is on the screen, they should be like, ‘OMG! Not him/her. I thought it was the driver, man!’ If you manage to elicit that kind of response from your viewers, bingo! You have cracked the formula of making a good suspense thriller.

As the times change, even the format of how a mystery movie is being narrated has changed. Earlier, it was all about discovering a dead body, and finding out who killed that man/woman. Some prime examples of this format are movies like Khamosh, Gumnaam, Teesra Kaun etc. Nowadays the format has changed – it’s not about catching the killer anymore; it’s more about how to find out the modus operandi of the murder. Suspense movies these days let you be invested in the investigations so much that you become a sleuth yourself. Some of them don’t even reveal who the killer is; and yet you don’t feel disappointed. After all a bad reveal can spoil the entire journey that came before.

This week, we will have the release of Kahaani 2, the spiritual successor to Sujoy Ghosh’s cult hit, Kahaani. Vidya Balan again plays the protagonist here, though she is no longer Vidya Bagchi – she is Durga Rani Singh, or is she? That’s what the investigating officer, played by Arjun Rampal and we, the audience are going to find out this Friday.

But before that, let’s look at 10 recent Bollywood mystery thrillers and how they fared at the box office.

Drishyam

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A remake of the Malayalam blockbuster by the same name, Drishyam was one of the biggest hits of last year. Ajay Devgn, reprising the role played by Mohanlal, plays an ordinary man who has to go to extraordinary levels to save his family and cover up a murder they accidentally committed. Tabu plays the investigating officer, who also happens to be the mother of the murdered boy. The film is well-known for that brilliant twist in the climax.

BO verdict – Hit

Talvar

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Meghna Gulzar’s take on the investigation behind the real-life murder of Aarushi Talwar makes for a gripping movie, replete with fantastic performances from the cast, especially Konkona Sen Sharma and Irrfan Khan. This is one of those few murder mysteries where we never find out who the killer is, but the movie was never about it. That’s why we are more disappointed with our legal system, and less with the lack of the knowledge of the real culprit.

BO verdict – Hit

Kahaani

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Seriously, no one expected Kahaani to not only be a hit but also turn out to be one of the best thrillers Bollywood has ever produced. Vidya Balan gives one of her best performances as the pregnant woman in search of her missing husband, while the movie is replete with cult characters like Bob Biswas, a portly insurance salesman moonlighting as a killer, and of course a breakout performance by Nawazuddin Siddiqui as the snarky CBI officer Khan. The end twist may be inspired by Angelina Jolie’s Taking Lives but that shouldn’t mar the quality of the entire movie.

BO verdict – Hit

Ugly

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Anurag Kashyap gives another twisted take on how the warped minds of people work, when they are faced with an unforeseen circumstance. A girl goes missing, her stepfather is investigating the case, her real father is the suspect, and everyone tries to use the situation to their advantage, including the girl’s mother. The harrowing last scene will stay in your mind for a long time. Though it was Kashyap’s better efforts, the public found it very dark and rejected it at the box office.

BO verdict – Flop

Talaash

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A car crashed into the sea out of nowhere, killing its driver and Inspector Surjan Shekhawat (Aamir Khan) investigates the mysterious murder. In the process he has to deal with the shady world of red light areas, entangle himself with a mysterious hooker (Kareena Kapoor Khan), all the while dealing with the guilt of not saving his son from a watery death. The end twist with regards to Kareena’s character would have worked, if some idiot had not leaked the suspense two days before the release of the movie. But still the movie is eminently watchable for Kareena and Nawazuddin’s performances.

BO verdict – Hit

Rahasya

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Released a few months before Talvar, this Manish Gupta movie is also inspired by the Aarushi Talwar murder case. However unlike the former, Rahasya is a proper whodunit with a killer reveal, that only uses the thread of the real-life case to spun a decent suspense thriller. Kay Kay Menon, Tisca Chopra and Ashish Vidyarthi are fantastic in it, and the climax can surprise you.

BO verdict – Flop

Gupt

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One of Bobby Deol’s biggest hits, the movie has him play an escaped convict, falsely accused of killing his stepfather. On the run, he decides to find out who the real killer, as he takes down one red herring after another. Little does he know that the real killer was with him all the time. Watch out for a brilliant performance by Kajol during the climactic sequences for which she won Filmfare Award for Best Actor in a Negative Role.

BO verdict – Hit

Kaun

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This brilliant thriller was made by the eccentric Ram Gopal Varma when everything he made was just quality stuff. Starring Urmila Matondkar, Manoj Bajpayee and Sushant Singh, Kaun was one of the rare movies that only has a couple of characters in the cast, and yet manage to be pacy and gripping, playing on our fear of being alone at our homes. Unfortunately Kaun was way too ahead of its time, and it didn’t click at the box office.

BO verdict – Flop

36 China Town

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Abbas Mustan brought in the likes of Shahid Kapoor, Kareena Kapoor, Akshaye Khanna, Paresh Rawal and Johnny lever to make a mystery thriller that has enough dosage of romance, humour and suspense. However, despite the colourful setting of Goa and the chemistry between the cast, 36 China Town was one of AM’s weaker efforts, and the ‘butler did it’ reveal was poorly done. However, it did manage to recover the costs at the box office.

BO verdict – Above Average

Khiladi

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Khiladi is the movie that gave both Akshay Kumar and Abbas Mustan that big place under the spotlight. This 1992 thriller starts off as a breezy campus romance, before things get muder-y, and our hero has to find out who the hell was behind the murder. Khiladi has some wonderful songs in Dekha Teri Mast Nigahon Mein and Wada Raha Sanam, and the suspense is chilling.

BO verdict – Hit