This film is proof that too many stories can spoil a cinematic broth. The writer mixes, we are told, three real-life stories — one of the murder of a friend who has become the wife’s paramour, one of a scam in the Navy, and one more story that we could not fathom! — into one thriller with fictional elements used as connectors.

And that undoes the grip quotient of this film, which at 150 minutes, drags at many junctures. Also, while there may be some logic to the conclusion, the fact that the perpetrators of a scam in the Navy (in 1959) go undetected and unpunished rankles. Yes, we cannot give spoilers here, but there is a lot of illogic in the unfolding of the screenplay like the humongous money that is transferred to a certain character’s account — what happens to it, and what is the rationale, given what the character is?

Director Tinu Suresh Desai, who made such a pathetic first film as “1920 London” earlier this year, needed better material (or should have extracted it) to create something worthy of a reunion of Akshay Kumar with producer Neeraj Pandey after “Special 26” and “Baby,” but Vipul K. Rawal’s script works off and on only. On the whole, despite its laudable message, this is just an average familiar thriller, and the longer second half is almost completely occupied by the court trial.

Even in the crucial trial, absurdities creep in. No one even questions the logic behind a naval commander needing to inform a Delhi high-up about his wife’s infidelity and affair with a rich (non-Naval) businessman. The overdose of humor in the name of entertainment instead of a gripping and serious court trial often damages the impact in the crime case and makes everything look unintentionally flippant (unlike the deliberate domination of comedy over crime in the recent “Dishoom”).

The judge (Anang Desai, cute but a shade frivolous and only wannabe stern!) throws an editor and the lead characters’ domestic servant (Usha Nadkarni, good) into jail for the flimsiest of reasons, but does not even reprimand the prosecution attorney (Sachin Khedekar, hamming away) when the latter forces a witness to do perjury — and this witness too goes unpunished!

There are other flaws too, including major ones that would be spoilers if we revealed them as we said, and some uni-dimensional characters. In a seemingly last-minute self-reminder to be realistic, the writer and director even talk of an appeal to a High Court against the court’s ruling. But the film ends immediately!

Desai as director tries to do the best of the slipshod material that he himself has green-lit. He is good in parts, and despite the flaws, delivers a decently entertaining thriller. But then, as said earlier, with the combination of a Pandey and a Kumar, we expect much more. Even “Baby,” despite its flaws and inordinate length, was far superior to this film.

There are some good songs, but they are all very poorly used and integrated. The background music (Surender Sodhi) suddenly shifts gear from the more acoustic and impactful retro kind in the earlier scenes to a contemporary basic kind, and we cannot comprehend this confusion when the time period (1959 on) remains the same!

That said, full marks to the technical side, and especially for the creators of the 1959 Bombay, just like it was done in another Pandey-Kumar film, “Special 26.”

Oops, we forgot to mention the story! Naval Commander Rustom Pavri (Kumar) returns before time when his ship scraps further travel and docks in the city. He is alarmed to find letters written by family friend Vikram (Arjan Bajwa) to his wife Cynthia (Ileana D’Cruz), who has been away for a couple of nights from home, and soon realizes that an affair is on. He goes and shoots Vikram, surrenders to the police, and refuses to talk to his wife. Soon, the trial begins, and now Rustom pleads ‘not guilty’ to the murder! So what is actually happening?

Kumar is gritty, intense and sincere as Rustom, but somewhere we feel that he is too conscious of his image within the film and could have been less stiff. D’Cruz makes a mark in her uni-dimensional role of an unfaithful but remorseful wife.

Pavan Malhotra impresses as the police officer, and Kumud Mishra as the editor is made into a kind of caricature with a bias towards his own community, the Parsis (to which Rustom belongs). Nadkarni is impressive, but Bajwa like Khedekar (see above) goes towards hamming rather than acting. The rest have no role to speak of, including Esha Gupta as the shrewish sister of the villain who just looks vampish (as in old Hindi films or current television soaps!), smokes endlessly, and exposes totally unnecessary cleavage, even in court or when in mourning!

Rating: ***

Zee Studios and Kriarj Entertainment present Cape of Good Films and Friday Filmworks’ “Rustom”

Produced by: Neeraj Pandey, Shital Bhatia, Aruna Bhatia, Nittin Keni, Akash Chawla, Virender Arora and Ishwar Kapoor

Directed by: Tinu Suresh Desai

Written by: Vipul K. Rawal

Music: Arko, Jeet Gannguly, Raghav Sachar and Ankit Tiwari

Starring: Akshay Kumar, Ileana D’cruz, Esha Gupta, Arjan Bajwa, Kanwaljeet Singh, Pavan Malhotra, Parmeet Sethi, Sachin Khedekar, Usha Nadkarni, Kumud Mishra and others

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