Setters: A tedious watch

Earlier this year, the wholesale racket surrounding examinations was the subject of an Emraan Hashmi film, Why Cheat India. That film suffered from a fatal confusion: was it for or against those who engage in the practice of buying-and-selling college seats?

Setters is about the same thing, more or less, but it doesn’t bother with bringing up any of these tricky moral ambiguities. It is very clear about good and bad, black and white, and bungs in, for good measure, a cruel mastermind who gets his jollies from snapping off human fingers.

And because our self-same dhoti-clad, marble-chested Bhaiyyaji (Pavan Malhotra) lives in Banaras, we get a lot of local colour: the ghats, the lingo, the ganga-aarti, the eating of paan and so on. We also get his shaagird (Shreyas Talpade) who carries out the operation with smarts, along with his team-mates.

All is hunky dory till an honest cop (Aftab Shivdasani) shows up, determined to unearth the ‘setters’ (those who copy the question papers and pass them on, in exchange for cash). From then on, it becomes a chase, but there really is no doubt about who will win.

This film had the potential be an engaging thriller. Talpade gets into his part, and is suitably shifty and smooth as he goes along: the only time he is out of his depth is in the clunky love angle the plot dreams up for him. Malhotra vamps it up, and is a case-book study of the over-the-top baddies that Bollywood used to dish out. Without his slit-eyed throwback to good old-fashioned villainy, Setters would have been very dull indeed, especially when Shivdasani does nothing but flail in his pursuit of the bad guys.

Setters lays all its cards on the table in the first act itself: the follow-up is over-long and tedious. And, barring a few sharp moments, flat.

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