When you’ve decided to play by the rules — getting the rights for the official adaptation of a movie — all you really need to do is what Bollywood’s been doing all this time: copy + paste. Of course an adaptation means including little nuances to make it more relatable to your audience, but Karan Malhotra’s Brothers strips all the edge from Gavin O’Connor’s 2011 sports drama Warrior, and turns the whole thing into a string of B-town clichés that bring in all the wrong kinds of drama.
David (Akshay Kumar) and Monty (Sidharth Malhotra) Fernandes are half-brothers who used to get along just fine till their abusive alcoholic father Gary (Jackie Shroff) really messed things up and ended up in prison when they were teenagers, and now they hate each other’s guts. Like his father, David used to be a street fighter, but quit when he met his wife (Jacqueline Fernandez) and got a job as a Physics teacher at a school. They eventually had a daughter, who eventually had failing kidneys, whose treatment eventually puts them in a desperate financial situation. When we are introduced to Monty, who has grown up to be a street fighter as well, he’s waiting for his father outside prison on the day of his release to take him home. When Gary wants to know why David didn’t come, Monty looks like he’s going to slap someone. Sibling rivalry check.
Between Monty’s desperate need to finally get his father’s approval, and David’s daughter’s expensive medical requirements, you know very quickly how things are going to go down. Which is why, post-interval, the film becomes an awful drag to sit through. The first half is a teary build-up, unnecessarily chock-full of context and background stories and reinforcing those contexts and background stories, and then really making sure you GOT IT, YES? The second half is about waiting for the two people you know are going to be up against each other, to get into the fighting ring already. For this to happen, you have to first sit through a couple of dozen ridiculous rounds of “MMA-style” fighting. “Iss ring mein you die or never say die” — which basically means that there’s a whole lot of random bone-crunching, skull-cracking, chokeholds, blood, sweat and tears involved in the…whatever they’re trying to pull off, I don’t think it’s a legal or legitimate sport anywhere outside of a Game of Thrones rehearsal set.
If you can tune out a background score that makes you think Nirupa Roy or Jaya Bachchan are suddenly going to appear to perform an aarti around whatever sons they can find, Kumar and Malhotra are actually fun to watch, despite the film’s treatment. Kumar gets to show off both his sculpted body and his many compelling martial art-y moves with a legitimate reason for once, while Malhotra is as hot as his Sriracha ganji in montages of the Fernandes brothers in training for the big fight in really swanky stadia and against stunning backdrops. Malhotra’s lost expression is perfect for this role of younger, hurting sib’ with the bad life deal, and Kumar’s limited ability to emote across the spectrum works for a stoic character carrying the burden of a cute dying daughter. Jackie Shroff’s dad-bod, white hair and general scruff-vibe lends credibility to his character, and he does a good job for a bit before the script fails him. Shefali Shah has only a few quick scenes, but she performs them with the competence one has now come to expect of her, and Fernandez is restrained enough to finally be convincing. As for the much talked about Kareena Kapoor item number — I have no idea why she agreed to do it, you’ll know why when/if you see it.
On the whole, Brothers is a film that starts out strong but ends up wasting all potential, and not a huge miss if you skip it for something else this week.