Roy (Abhiiiiiii!) (Whoops, sorry, my inner fangirl just took over for a second and squealed for an autograph) is the Renaissance master of the con game. Everything about his life is a series of lies, with one large exception: his love for Simmi (Priyanka), an honest girl who has no idea about his true profession. When she discovers the truth, their relationship dissolves under the weight of the revelation, leaving Roy disconsolate but unwilling to effect real change in his life.
A terrible excuse for a fellow bluffmaster (Ritesh) keeps following Roy around, trying to pull jobs in his vicinity, but Roy isn't really interested until the other man effects a con on a doctor (Boman-ji) and Roy takes pity on the bilked sucker. Deciding to help the doctor recover his funds might be the biggest mistake of Roy's life... or it might turn his life around. Either way, it's at this point that Roy's life begins to unravel out of his control. Seemingly unrelated events pile one on top of the other until Roy is left reeling like a windmill on acid. His existence steadily becomes more and more surreal--reaching the pinnacle of confusion just before a passerby asks him, "Does this movie star Salman? Shah Rukh?"
Bluffmaster pulls from Matchstick Men, Criminal, Nine Queens, and Ocean's Eleven (going so far as to lift a two-line dialogue exchange directly from that last) for its inspiration, but it is definitely its own film. It simultaneously pokes affectionate fun at the WTF randomness of true masala and makes clever use of its conventions, with clear intentionality. (Hey, is that Shashi--it is! I see Shashitabh from Shaan!) Its cinematography is unusually realistic compared to the other Bollywood films I've seen--no blazing blue skies, foreign landmarks, or saturated reds and golds, just cloudy smog above Mumbai and the crumbling remnants of Colonial architecture, filthy with age and pollution, contrasting sharply with the million-dollar condos just down the block.
That cinematic version of realism follows through with the musical numbers--the only big song-and-dance sequences are the opening and closing credits (and hey, my husband's speculations were right, that is Abhi's real voice in "Right Here Right Now!"). The rest occur as a backdrop to the action. In any case, they didn't really make much of an impression on me--heavy on the Hinglish and too American, if I wanted to hear that I'd turn on a Top 40 station, but inoffensive.
The guys' performances are awesome--can I just say that Ritesh deserves to be a way bigger star than he is? The dude exudes charisma from every pore. I know people say Priyanka can't act but as far as I could tell she did fine here. And the story! There's one more movie that Bluffmaster owes, but I can't even mention the title without spoiling the ending, so just go get the movie if you haven't already. It's worth every penny.