Kill  (18) |Close-Up Film Review

Dir. Nikhil Nagesh Bhat, India/US 2023, 105 mins, in Hindi with subtitles

Cast:  Lakshya, Raghav Juyal, Tanya Maniktala

Review by Carol Allen

We tend in the UK to associate contemporary Indian film largely with the Bollywood romantic musical, so for Western audiences, particularly non Asian ones, this is going to come as a bit of a shock.   The title says it all.   There  is a lot of killing in this film.

The story starts off however in a typical Bollywood romance way.  Amrit (Lakshya) a commando in the Indian army, comes home on leave looking forward to seeing his sweetheart Tulika (Tanya Maniktala).   But Tulika’s dad, a wealthy man who seems to own half of India or at least the railway, has promised her in marriage to a more suitable candidate and the family are about to travel home from the engagement party on the night train to Delhi, a train service which incidentally Tulika’s dad owns. 

In a mood of romantic derring do, Amrit and his best mate Viresh (Abhishek Chauhan) board the train, where Amrit hopes for both a bit of romancing with his love and to win her dad round – a somewhat optimistic agenda.  

However ruthless young bandit Fani (Raghav Juyal) is also on the train with his band of vicious thugs.  The initial plan is to rob the passengers of their goodies but when Fani discovers that a bigger prize is on offer, in that the rich family who actually own the railway are on board and he then kidnaps Tulika as hostage, Amrit sees a chance to be a hero in the eyes of his beloved and her family and all killer hell breaks loose.

It turns into a massacre involving every sort of sadistic violence, from face and body pulping fisticuffs to vicious activity with knives and other lethal weapons and even setting someone on fire.  If Bollywood wants to prove it can get as nasty as Hollywood product or nearer home emulate the stomach churning violence of some Korean and Chinese action movies, well, they’ve made their point.  They’re up there with the big killers.

One of the things that is interesting about the film however is what it says about class attitudes in today’s India.  The bandit plot is initially just about a bit of simple robbery.   But although the caste system is officially no more, class differences still prevail.   Fani’s mob are from the poor and underprivileged section of society.  Once he realises who exactly is there among the passengers, it becomes a class struggle.

There is also the importance of family.  Banditry is a family business.  They’re all there, controlled by Fani’s father and every time Amrit or Viresh dispose of one of them, there comes a wail of “you’ve killed my father/ brother/cousin/ uncle”.   A small family business versus a large family business then.

In its defence the film is very well shot and brilliantly, indeed sickeningly well edited, giving us detail of every bit of blood soaked conflict.   And when they get the chance, Amrit and Tulika make a sweet pair of lovers.  But the amount of physical punishment Amrit and his mate endure and still come back fighting is way beyond belief.

The primarily Asian audience I saw the film with however rather disturbingly greeted it all with enthusiastic cheers and laughter.   One wonders who are the target audience the film makers are after?  Is it the traditional Bollywood fans, up for something different from romance or is it the white Western gore lovers?