Cheap double entendres check. Fast cars, check. Yellow cars, check. Squad of yea-saying firangs, check. Excessive panting and desperate feeling-up, check. Skinny chicks with tiny décolletage spilling out of tinier bikini tops, check. Scenes ripped off from Hollywood, check. Scorpion symbolism, check. Bipasha Basu, check. Yes, it’s an Abbas-Mustan film. And the fact that the film proudly declares its brand partner as Sunsilk, and news partner as India TV, tells us just how lowbrow it is.

Littered with clichés ranging from “Revenge is a dish best served cold” to “Promises are made to be broken”, Race 2 doesn’t even make a pretence of doing anything new. This time, the kings of rotten pulp are brazen enough to lift the entire sword-fighting sequence out of The Mask of Zorro, complete with the music.

Do you really need to know what the plot is? Well, obviously, it involves a bunch of rich people who strut about with a bunch of mannequins. Everyone sleeps with everyone else, and whenever they run out of things to say, they all dance together. A breathless narrative explains to us just how clever each of these bloodhounds are, and our only respite from the knowing smiles, rippling muscles, grinding torsos and exposed navels comes through gadgets. Every now and then, the camera focuses on impossible gadgets with hidden sensors, and we’re allowed to keep ourselves occupied in guessing what is connected to what, and how the filmmakers intend to explain all of it.

As if it weren’t bad enough that every film made by this director duo in the past decade has had exactly the same story, they’re now making sure each of these spawns sequels that are held together by a mess of crossings and double-crossings. The only thing that changes is the name of each character. Even the cast appears to have got repetitive.

By the time the interval approaches, about five hammed revelations into the story, most of the audience is half-asleep. Even the sounds of screeching tyres, fisticuffs, raunchy romps, and gunshots have blended into a hum, thanks to the frequency of their employment. Just in case the convoluted story of Armaan Malik (John Abraham), his nymphomaniac sister (Deepika Padukone), his kleptomaniac girlfriend Omisha (Jacqueline Fernandez), and their intense acquaintance Ranveer (Saif Ali Khan) gets too heavy for us, the filmmakers thoughtfully provide us with comic relief through Anil Kapoor and Ameesha Patel. It would suffice to say the ploy backfires.

The Verdict: The only original touch in this film is the sight of a man doing splits, followed by a pelvic thrust, while being held by two men, ahead of a cage fight.

Short of its potential

Akaash VaniIt’s a bold ambition to inject life into the hoary old theme of a relationship triangle. Riding on the success of Pyaar ka Punchnama, Luv Ranjan gives us the frame we’ve seen so often before – two people fall in love, one of them ends up with someone else, and then they meet again. While what Ranjan does with his plotline is interesting at times, it falls short of the mark, sometimes descending into melodrama.

Having caught the trailer, I was already prepared for some eye-rolling. First, there’s the laboured pun in the title. And then, there’s the little exchange between the couple – “Honeymoon is a three-letter word…S-E…okay, it’s a four-letter word…F-U-C…” Sigh. And do we really need to see more spoofing of 90s Bollywood?

The film is fun enough when it deals with the time Akaash (Kartik Tiwari) and Vani (Nushrat Bharucha) first meet. But this tends to lag after a point, because it doesn’t offer us anything new. The clever lines feel old, the scenes feel stretched. With the film running into two and a half hours, one can think of several bits that it could’ve done without.

Ranjan explores the complexities in the story mainly through loaded silences. The problems Vani faces in her marriage, the disturbing torture she suffers, in ways that are hard to articulate, layer the plot with more dimensions. Nushrat Bharucha is convincing both as the small-town girl, suddenly liberated away from home, and the wife who can’t stand up to her husband.

The undoing of the film is that it falls back on staples too often, down to the safe ending. It’s as if the writers, at some point, stopped putting themselves in the place of the two lovers. The dialogue, which is endearingly natural at times, gets increasingly stilted. There are gaps in the story that are never filled, and questions in our heads that are never answered. Why did Akaash do nothing to claim Vani in all these years? Where is the resentment each must nurse against the other, under such circumstances?

While the leads act very well as college kids, we only see glimpses of their skill when they play older versions of themselves. Perhaps the script is to blame. Why does smoking automatically make a boy a man? Once, just once, I’d like to see a man quit smoking to prove he’s grown up, on celluloid.

The Verdict: This beautifully shot film does show promise at times, but it appears the filmmakers weren’t quite sure how to take it forward.

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