It's probably a coincidence that the latest Bollywood offerings the last week had to do with photographs. In Aa Dekhen Zara, Neil Nitin Mukesh plays a photographer who discovers the secrets of a camera that has (well, I'm not going to let the cat out of the bag) powers to do with time. And in 8x10 Tasveer (photograph), Akshay Kumar plays forest ranger Jai, working for Environmental Protection in Alberta, Canada, who possesses the supernatural ability of transporting his soul back to the past, assuming the point of view of the person in the photograph whom he's staring at.
Unlike The Butterfly Effect, his abilities are more passive. He cannot manipulate events as experienced by the body he's staring out from, and neither can he linger around for more than a minute, as each transportation brings about some severe weakening of his macho physique, akin to being knocked out by a heavyweight champion. So it's a risk he has to undertake in order to assist strangers who sought him out to help in locating their loved ones, and nothing will prepare him to use this power to solve his dad's murder aboard a luxury yacht.
Akshay Kumar didn't get plenty of love from the box office for his previous kung-fu movie Chandni Chowk to China, which I had enjoyed actually. While I find this suspense thriller an above average flick thanks to Kumar's charismatic presence, one just cannot shrug away the sense of familiarity and deja vu in having watched a version of this film somewhere (someone jog my memory please!). 8x10 Tasveer still contains a decent "whodunnit" storyline that will keep you guessing, but only because it has that rug on standby just beneath your feet, which I think some would cry foul in being thrown an unexpected spanner from the blind side into the works.
Supporting Jai in his quest to seek the truth, even as he subscribes to unorthodox methods, is ex-cop Happi ("Happy with an I") played by Javed Jaffrey (who voiced the villain Charlie Anna in Roadside Romeo), taking an interest in the publicized death just because he was on the receiving end of tremendous assistance given by Jai's father in helping him to settle down in a strange new city (of Toronto!). Happi's an interesting character injected just for some light hearted laughs though, being a character afflicted with OCD and kudos to Jaffrey in having to play this socially awkward character misfit who should have deserved more screen time.
The narrative did feel draggy for a bit, despite clocking just under 2 hours with only one short musical ballad serving as a romantic interlude between Jai and his lady love Sheila (Ayesha Takia). And while you know that at some point Jai will have to perform a brute-force investigation by peeking through the eyes of everyone in a photograph, it just takes a while to get to that stage, before shifting into high gear during the last 30 minutes where you're likely to be surprised with a sudden turn of events. On one hand there was a sudden lift in the lull of the mystery, but on the other you'd feel it's one of those plot developments that felt a little of a cop out. It did answer some questions should you rewatch the film though, but seasoned mystery fans would likely clamour for more than the usual.
And does anyone think Akshay Kumar does look like Nicholas Cage with that hang-dog look and closely crop hairdo? That 8x10 Tasveer poster did make Akshay resemble Cage in that Ghost Rider poster, and this film did feel like one which Cage would have no problems stepping into as well. 8x10 Tasveer is decent, though there's nothing that will particularly make you sit up and exclaim Wow.