Let’s face it: there are very few filmmakers who can convincingly carry off the old-school larger-than-life cinema in today’s times with conviction and competence. The amount of retro-styled movies that come across as fake probably outnumber the well-made movies in that genre, as seen very recently in fiascos like “Prasthaanam.”
It was last year that writer-director Milap Zaveri came up with “Satyameva Jayate,” which was a hit for John Abraham. However, it was far from being an ideal pan-Indian (as in all demagogues) entertainer, as I had mentioned then. This time, too, the single-screens may resonate for a while, just like they do with the far-superior (in emotions and technical finesse) South Indian potboilers, but Zaveri shows conclusively that once he gets a success, he overdoes, like the template filmmakers of yore, the same formula. There is NO attempt whatsoever at newness or innovation, except in the unpleasant aspect of the heroine’s death. On the contrary, decades old clichés are stuffed down the audience throats in overdone, very calculated and thus fake succession.
In all humility, just like re-created songs can be best assessed by those who had experienced the originals in their times, such films can be best evaluated by people who have watched the older films and seen the pros and cons then.
To come to the most important point if one wants to go retro, the emotional voltage should not come across as synthetic. Plastic emotions, repeated flashback visuals and an ambiguous track of a prostitute who loves the hero do not really qualify as good old classic retro — please remember that despite their sameness, the old classics had a multiple repeat-watch then and evergreen value now. And all that had reasons!
And so we come to another point of pain: poor music unlike in the past. Yes, songs like “Tum Hi Aana” are being touted as greats, but we do not even remember the full lyrics, the singing is pathetic and the music humdrum and a hark-back to tunes as new as the Zaveri-written “Ek Villain” and older songs of the 1980s and 1990s. In the best tradition of the impoverished musical culture of today, three songs—Kalyanji-Anandji’s “Pyaar Lo Pyaar Do” (from “Janbaaz”), Laxmikant-Pyarelal’s “Chahe Meri Jaan Tu Le Le” (“Dayavan”) and a Nusrat number are re-created. None of the original songs “made” here remain in memory as soon as they are over.
So, most importantly, Zaveri should remember in his next film that if he wants to go back in time, he must make original and hit music with shelf value, preferably from a single composer who gets involved in and is inspired by the story.
In this film, this is perhaps the right time to mention that Nora Fatehi is spellbinding in “Pyaar Do Pyaar Lo” (yes, those words are the “cosmetic” change from the original!). She dances like a dream, her movements as intricate as they are classy.
Moving on, the story is replete with clichés from the past. Raghu (we grant that his entry is stylishly designed) is the orphan brought up like a son by Mumbai don Narayan Anna (Nassar), who kills for his boss and is his favorite henchman. Anna’s vertically-challenged and hopelessly evil son Vishnu (Riteish Deshmukh) is pathologically jealous of Raghu.
Raghu falls in love with the mute Zoya (Tara Sutaria), who comes to audition kids from the neighborhood, in which there is a brothel as well. Coming from the brothel is Arzoo (Rakul Preet Singh), who loves Raghu. Raghu’s friends and professional associates are led by Mazhar (Shaad Randhawa). In an ingenious rework of the 1970s and 1980s formula, Anna comes to know that Zoya is dangerous as she has been eyewitness to murders committed by Vishnu and instructs Raghu to kill her. Raghu and Zoya try to run away, but caught in a tragic situation involving a small boy and a minor girl from the brothel, he actually has to shoot his girl in Anna’s presence.
Raghu goes to jail (we cannot figure the “why” of this when he has been killing so many in cold blood at Anna’s behest!) and comes out shattered. But it is a matter of time before he turns into a vendetta machine.
Blood splatters all over as we have attacks on people during Dusshera, Durga Puja and even inside a mosque and scenarios replete with extremely overdone sequences to show communal integration, which was done with comparative restraint in our old potboilers—this was a trope used by Zaveri even in “Satyameva Jayate.”
The confused cop (Ravi Kishen) even tells Raghu near the climax that in Hindi cinema, the police arrive a little late and they will now live up to that reputation when he goes an annihilates the gang! But he arrives too late!
One of the most mediocre aspects of the film is its “dialogues.” While rare ones may elicit claps and whistles, that too from the frontbenchers, most seem like corny and horribly labored writing, complete with horrendous stuff like “Main maaroonga, mar jaayega / Phir janam lene se dar jaayega (If I hit you, you will die, and will be scared of being born again)!” Another ridiculous line after the death of an important character translates as “He isn’t dead. He’s gone to meet his life (another character who he loved)!”
Success after failures can send wrong messages to people. A tried-and-tested intelligent writer like Zaveri has succumbed to this creative (and , of course, commercial) trap, making a mission out of repeating past hit material. Caught in the mire are a couple of fine actors, led by Sidharth Malhotra (we hope the poor man does get a success here), who is totally convincing in his role and expressions. Yes, he should do such roles more, but better-written ones in better-conceived projects.
Riteish Deshmukh impresses and hams in turns, while Rakul has nothing much to do. Tara Sutaria makes a mark and shows that she was not given a fair deal in her debut “Student Of The Year 2” earlier this year. Shaad Randhawa is passable, as is Nassar. The rest do not have much to do, though Uday Nene as Raghu’s plump friend impresses.
Rating: ** (Just About)
Produced by: Bhushan Kumar, Krishan Kumar, Divya Khosla Kumar, Nikkhil Advani, Monisha Advani & Madhu Bhojwani
Written & Directed by: Milap Zaveri
Music: Kalyanji-Anandji, Laxmikant-Pyarelal, Tanishk Bagchi, Payal Dev & Meet Bros & Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan
Starring: Sidharth Malhotra, Rakul Preet Singh, Tara Sutaria, Riteish Deshmukh, Nassar, Shaad Randhawa, Alina Qazi, Om Kanojiya, Anant Jog, Amit Mehra, Virendra Singh Ghuman, Bikramjeet Kanwarpal, Ravi Kishan, Suhasini Mulay, Uday Nene, Godaan Kumar, Swati Seth & Sp. App.: Nora Fatehi