In a recent interview, Neil Nitin Mukesh, the star of Shortcut Romeo, had this to say about the film’s relation to its Tamil original, Thiruttu Payale: “The films are not similar except for a few nuances… The characters and the scale are completely different.” He must have been talking about the Shortcut Romeo he’d have liked to make – not the one he’s ended up making, under the crushing direction of Susi Ganesh. A few kinks have been ironed out. The romance between Suraj (Mukesh) and Sherry (Puja Gupta) has been fleshed out, and we no longer wonder about this con man’s sustained change of heart. And we have to give this to Mukesh: the original film did not feature the hero’s fight with a dozen snarling Masai warriors, and it most certainly did not make room for a dewy-eyed duet where the hero made clear his feelings for his heroine by crooning “Main shola, tu Coca-Cola.”
The tragedy of the Tamil film wasn’t that it was bad, but that it was based on great material and yet ended up bad. The story of a young man who hatches a scheme to blackmail a multimillionaire had – at least on paper – such great twists, such a chilling end. (Of course, you couldn’t ask why he didn’t end up with a bullet through his head, courtesy a paid assassin.) The film was – again, on paper – a morality tale infused with the spirit of noir. But it looked as if it had been shot on a teenager’s weekly allowance, and the pace of an already overlong narrative was horribly slackened by songs and a comedy track. A remake is usually a way to take care of the things that did not work earlier, but Ganesh is too busy having his African extras shake their buttocks to the accompaniment of lines like “Uska pichwada permanent vibration mode pe hamesha hota hai.” That sounded like bliss compared to the complaints of my own backside, at having to endure these shenanigans all over again.
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