The sibling directors Abbas-Mustan were among the most reliable hit-makers of the 1990s and 2000s, but their formula has calcified in recent years. The typical Abbas-Mustan film is characterised by glamorous leads (men in suits, women in bandage dresses), slick production values, foreign locations, and plots littered with twists and red herrings. But all this now appears tacky and overly familiar. An Abbas-Mustan movie is easy to identify, which is the problem.
Machine is an attempt to cash in on past glory to secure the future of the lead – Abbas’s son Mustafa in his acting debut. Machine’s plot is a throwback to Abbas-Mustan’s Baazigar, the 1993 movie that made Shah Rukh Khan a star. Ransh (Mustafa) easily casts a spell on Sarah (Kiara Advani), and before you can say “Baazigar o Baazigar”, they are betrothed. When Sarah dies soon after her wedding, Mustafa is the prime suspect. Is he the deeply committed life partner of Sarah’s dreams, a fraud who entraps women for their wealth, or a wronged son avenging a previous slight? There’s another way of putting it: should you care?
Mustafa’s presence in the movie will do little to counter allegations of nepotism that are justly hurled at filmmakers bent on pushing their progeny down the throats of audiences. Advani fares only a little better. The cast includes Ronit Roy, playing a psychotic father for the nth time, and Abbas-Mustan regular Johny Lever trying to provoke laughs. Songs crowd the narrative, and the machine jangles and clatters away for 148 minutes before hurtling towards an inevitable pile-up.