I needed to watch this movie like I needed a hole in the head! What is Tigmanshu Dhalia smoking these days?! Hard to believe that this is the same dude who, not so long ago, gave us the eminently watchable ‘Paan Singh Tomar.’ Unfortunately, this is an inevitable fall-out whenever a director delivers an outstanding, immaculate product, because he is then measured against his own yardstick. And the audience is unforgiving when expectations aren’t met.
‘Bullet Raja’s” storyline is so jerky it’s as though someone put together cue cards on what scenes constitute a movie and was ticking the boxes as he went along! Raja Mishra (Saif Ali Khan) gatecrashes a wedding while on the run and meets up with Rudra (Jimmy Shergill) whose uncle is a thuggie. Somewhere in alla this is Lallan Yadav (Chunky Pandey) who, with the help of another Yadav (Vishwajeet Pradhan as Akhandveer Singh) bumps off said uncle, upon which the trigger happy Raja-Rudra duo bump them off. We’ve also got corrupt politician Ram Babu Shukla (Raj Babbar) pulling the puppet strings and masterminding the shenanigans. With the body count piling up, we then have some good old-fashioned kidnapping where Kuber Bajaj (Gulshan Grover) the moneybags behind all the dirty politics, is snatched – this angle seems to have been bunged in primarily to introduce the female lead into the story, Mitali (Sonakshi Sinha.) To take revenge, Bajaj hires another goon, Sumer Yadav (Ravi Kishan) who’s masquerading as a woman in an attempt to convince the cops he’s insane and thus escape conviction for all his crimes. He kills Rudra, which sets Raja thirsting for his blood. Just when you think these two hours of Yadav overkill (pun intended!) are about to wind up, the director introduces the character of encounter specialist cop, Amar Singh Munna (Vidyut Jamwal.) The unlikely duo of Raja and Munna team up and finish off the baddies and are then literally flying off into the sunset, with Mitali mysteriously back in the story.
So – this gun toting pair Raja and Rudra have been together for roughly four hours and they turn into best buddies which brings about a passing reference to the dost-jodi of ‘Sholay.’ Blasphemy! The two hide in a jail to stay safe from the bad people and then roar away on a bike in broad daylight with guns. Which, by the by – Skype in jails now?! Raja wants out from jail coz some goons were troubling his sister, but this angle is never followed up on – presumably the flashcard was replaced with the one where we, the audience, are told that ganne ka ras (sugarcane juice) is the flavour of the day for UP dons. Mitali looks like this demure belle but she nonetheless seems quite comfortable all alone in a room with Bajaj, telling him she’ll kiss him on the cheek! and the next thing is she’s cosying up to Raja, even sharing a hotel room with him without batting an eyelash. Tsk, tsk.
The scenes are just spliced together with precious little attention to continuity. Sometimes Raja remembers he’s gotta have the bhaiyya accent, at other times he’s got faultless diction. Mitali, who heretofore had been sounding quite normal, suddenly breaks into a spate of voluble Bengali to convince us she is indeed from Kolkata. Rather than being naughtily risqué, the scene between Raja and Rudra before the former heads off to share a room with Mitali, smacks strongly of vulgarity. What infantile gibberish is this, to make Bajaj screw up his face in a parody of crying when Raja strolls off arm-in-arm with Mitali. Gosh, SAK sounds like a hysterical housewife when he rants and raves; Rudra’s death scene with Raja chucking his head back and letting out a Tarzan-like howl was the most hammed ever! And what’s with these oblique references to Brahman and Ravan interjected ever so often??
Saif Ali Khan is just a little ageing now to be playing the super hero roles. The blond job on his hair only serves to make him look older and – is that the suspicion of a paunch I see there? This role does not even begin to kiss the hem of the Langda Tyagi character of ‘Omkara.’ Sonakshi walks through the film without leaving much of an effect; no apparent bonding between the lead pair. A dapper looking Gulshan Grover did his best to lift this film out of mediocrity, although there were moments when even he seemed to look on in wonder at this Mad Hatter’s tea party! It’s a pleasure to watch him act and he totally commands the scenes he’s in. Jimmy Shergill appears stilted; he’s lost some of his spark and looks positively weary in some scenes. Vishwajeet Pradhan was a welcome surprise. Raj Babbar is back after simply ages and with a fairly meaty role too. Ravi Kishan has acted very well and I am in awe at his guts in showing his flabby, spilling-over gut in full view in the shirtless kabadi scene; gives a whole new meaning to “khaate-peete ghar ka,” that! Chunky Pandey is back on the big screen after a long hiatus, looking none the worse for repair. Vipin Sharma as the jailed crime czar gave a creditable performance. Vidyut Jamwal did his bit; it is to be hoped though that the perpetual sneer on his face is a Tigmanshu requirement and not a stock-in-trade expression!
Dialogues are disappointing (TD again.) Except for a stray “filmi bandook thodi hi hai jo chalti jaayegi, beta” there is nothing inspiring here. Sajid-Wajid are credited with the vapid music and Sandeep Nath is responsible for the yawn lyrics. Ganesh Acharya as choreographer has not come up with any special moves for ‘Bullet Raja.’ Surprisingly, action (Parvez Khan) for this movie is lacklustre too. Rahul Srivastava had an unenviable job as editor for this one.
Tigmanshu Dhulia raised the bar for himself with his previous offerings. Now he’s gotta meet it head-on.
*This review is written exclusively for The Film Writers Association of India.