Vidyut Jamwal has a body of granite and a face to match. The gamut of expressions he employs can be counted on a single finger, and if you’re wondering why he’s been cast as Karanvir Singh Dogra in Dilip Ghosh’s Commando-A One Man Army, look no further than the early scene where he’s performing push-ups. Between raising and lowering his body with his hands pressed to the ground, he leaps as if released by a spring and touches his toes. In mid air. Surely that’s reason enough – along with the fact that his body seems to have muscles where no muscle ought to exist, and those muscles seem to have little muscles of their own. The simple act of raising an arm produces such variations in his musculature that if he didn’t belong in testosterone-fuelled action films like this, he’d be a model in a medical-school classroom, patiently striking poses as an instructor kept pointing to this -oid and that one.
How do you cast a villain against such a punishing hero? One way is to find an actor equally chiseled. Another is to write the character so colourfully that the physique is rendered redundant. And so we have Amrit Kanwal (Jaideep Ahlawat), who was born on amavas ki raat and who’s nicknamed himself after his initials and the year he was born. That’s right: he’s AK-74. And he has colourless irises and pupils, which make his eyes look like pools of white. As a finishing touch, he likes Santa-Banta jokes, which he’s prone to quoting before he offs his enemies in especially nasty ways. AK-74 becomes the villain of the story when Simrit (Pooja Chopra), the local girl he lusts after, runs away from him and takes refuge in the arms of Karanvir Singh Dogra. The couple flees into the jungles. AK-74 and his goons give chase. And we find ourselves squarely in First Blood territory, give or take a screechy heroine.
Commando, like its namesake made by B Subhash in the 1980s – it featured a Jamwal-equivalent in Hemant Birje – is a B-movie that wants to be nothing more than a B-movie. And it knows its audience. The film is set in a Punjabi milieu and the emphasis is less on the script (the hero spends a year in a Chinese prison in a development that has little bearing on the rest of the story) than the action, most of which is competently staged. But that’s about all you can say. Jamwal does little that earlier action heroes did not do. The stunts may be smoother, better executed, but it’s the same dishoom-dishoom, which raises the question whether, in this age of elaborate, prop-aided stunt choreography (witness, for instance, the opening action sequence in Skyfall, set on a train), simple fisticuffs and gravity-defying kicks are enough. After the second such action sequence, I was bored. And do we need songs and dances in these films? There’s a reason First Blood doesn’t come with a Bappi Lahiri-scored interlude – Rambo ho ho…
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