Forensic is headlined by two stellar actors in Vikrant Massey and Radhika Ape, but is so clunky and dated it arrives dead and won’t leave you soon.

In a scene from Zee5’s Forensic, a local inspector claims “Yahan agar koi naya underwear bhi kharidta hai toh sabko uska rang ptaa chal jaata hai.” He intends to make a point about the close-knit community of Mussoorie where Forensic is set. The mountains are unlike any other place in the way they function as a geography, economy and most importantly community. But that is where the film’s somewhat blunt wisdom about mountain life ends. Forensic, which is an adaptation of the recent Malayalam film of the same name is a bizarre exercise is mining location and acting because it wastes pretty much everything that is right in front of it. Including a decent original film that maybe was best left as it is.

Forensic is shouldered by Radhika Apte and Vikrant Massey. Apte is the local policewoman while Massey is the forensic expert called in to help on a case. He is, and I kid you not, called Johnny Khanna. There is the first clue about the amount of effort put into adapting this film. A girl’s body is found behind the ruins of a dilapidated colonial era building. The murder leads to an investigation that though it has its intricate ways of leading you on, is subsequently undermined by the central characters who are written like they belong in the 90s. All that would have been fine if the tone of the film wasn’t as semi-serious as it is.

Radhika Apte plays Megha, a stringent and strangely loud police officer who takes up the case of ‘the birthday killer’. Young girls start disappearing on their birthdays in the town of Mussoorie. Megha and Johnny have a history of love, but have since gone their separate ways. There is another strand of imprecise value connecting the two. Johnny’s older brother had a daughter who is now being raised by Megha. You get that the film is trying to casually unearth two mysteries at once. One of the mysterious killer on the loose in town, and another of the frictional history between the protagonists. Neither of which it approaches with any sort of conviction. The problem isn’t necessarily the plotting but how audaciously poorly the characters have been sketched. Chief among them would be the part-cocky, part-deliriously-good-at-his-job Johnny.

Vikrant Massey seems completely out of his element here. Cast as a half imbecile, half man who must be looked at as some unacknowledged genius, Johnny murmurs the famous nursery rhyme – Johnny Johnny yes papa (even in the company of corpses) – to himself. In one scene he is confronted stabbing a corpse uncontrollably. At which point he explains, cheekily as opposed to reservedly that he is “trying to get into the killer’s mind”. It’s bizarre just how out of sync Massey’s character is with the underlying tone of a film that suggests there is a child, trying to kill other children. In a satirical narrative where an unconventional forensic investigator solves cases without giving a hoot about process or empathy (Sherlock?) this cataclysm of a character profile might have worked. Here it simply feels absurd.

Forensic feels like it has been made with 90s sensibility. It has shots of lovers with the hills and clouds in the background, the two firing guns randomly at an abandoned sight and almost a warped understanding of community and hill life in general. While the latter crime is committed with regularity in cinema, it is the former that makes Forensic feel dated and almost lifeless on arrival. There is a track here about dwarfs, without allowing them the necessary humanity to be considered anything other than dopey distractions. Massey’s high-intensity act only serves in desensitising a film that could have done so much with the mood of a hill-town waking up, to the kind of terror it simply isn’t used to.

I wish I could say there are at least good songs here, but there aren’t. Vishal Furia’s Forensic feels like the kind of film that everyone working on it had realised wasn’t even close to what they thought it would be. It shows on Massey’s strained commitment, Apte’s indistinctive high-decibel acting and everyone else’s mediocrity. There is little soul here beyond the cursory. In a scene where Johnny explains how he traced elements on a girl’s school dress down to the exact path she took, it is baffling to imagine that a kid couldn’t walk in a straight line without hitting, rubbing and caressing against four different things. Even the people at CID (the show) would be embarrassed by this arranged marriage of conveniences. Forensic sets out to be the story of some clever scientific crime solving but would be best served by conducting an autopsy on the abjectness of its many, many shortcomings.

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By akagami