If the movies have taught us anything, it’s this: When you want the heroine to be seen as serious, she will be seen wearing glasses. (Refer also Padukone, Deepika in Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani; Zinta, Preity in Kal Ho Naa Ho.) So it’s enough, really, that Sajid Nadiadwala’s Kick, a remake of the similarly named Telugu hit, opens with a shot of the bespectacled Shaina (Jaqueline Fernandez) stepping into a wintry Warsaw street – we don’t need the additional shot where she plays Scrabble with her family and, seizing an opportunity for a word beginning with “S,” spells out S-O-R-R-O-W. (The feisty grandmother, on the other hand, spells out S-E-X. I’m just saying.) But what an idea, sirji: character delineation through board games. Imagine the narrative possibilities. When it’s the hero’s turn to be introduced, resplendent in shining armour, we get a scene where he’s playing chess and makes a knight move. No, wait. That would mean a scene where Salman Khan plays chess. Even Salman Khan can’t pull that off.
Anyway, back to Shaina, whose despondency the film clearly cannot get enough of. Her wardrobe, in the early scenes is filled with greys and blues and blacks. That’s some S-O-R-R-O-W, clearly. For J-O-Y, she’ll have to wait until the second half, when the hero (Devi Lal, played by… you know) invites her to a nightclub and persuades her to dance, at which point she shucks off her drab overcoat to reveal a slinky red dress – according to Statute 56 of the Costume Designer’s Handbook, she’s finally discovered passion. She also shucks off her glasses. What do you think this character does for a living? Being a dancer makes sense. She executes a jaw-dropping split. Or a singer? These professions go with the generic nature of these characterisations. When you have a heroine as a singer or dancer, you don’t have to write too many scenes to establish her as a presence. You can cover this even within the space of the song-and-dance routines. But no. Shaina is a psychiatrist. Why? So that she can take Devi Lal home when he’s afflicted by retrograde amnesia. So this is how the Polish health-care system apparently works. You walk up to the doctor who’s treating the patient and announce that you’re a psychiatrist, and he’ll let you take the patient home in order to implement the highly regimented treatment procedure called… TLC. Maybe those glasses helped. Maybe looking at them, the doctor knew that Shaina was capable of pulling off a triple word score with Devi Lal.
Movies like Kick depress me – and not because of the ineptness on display, the sheer waste of resources, the utter contempt for the audience. What depresses me is that they become hits, and further the conventional wisdom that this is what masala cinema is all about. Have the hero make his entry in a scene that literally showers him with confetti. Have him break some bones, and depict this bone-breaking through X-rays. Have him wrap things up with this admonitory punch line: “Dil mein aata hoon – samajh mein nahin,” that we should embrace him with our hearts and not our brains. And we’re supposed to go home happy. It’s depressing because it makes a mockery of the masala movies that take the trouble to write out convincing quasi-mythical narratives, with characters that are at once rooted and larger than life. Heck, you don’t have to look further than Salman Khan’s Dabangg, whose moves are still popular enough to be referenced here.
The difference between Dabangg and Kick is also the difference between India and Poland. Masala movies are essentially warm movies. They need the spice of colours like red and yellow. They need the heat from numbers like Munni badnaam hui and Aare pritam pyaare. They need to be peppered with moving parent-child scenes, piquant romantic stretches, epic hero-villain showdowns. Late into Kick, we get a sequence that unfolds during a charity ball. What self-respecting masala movie goes to a charity ball? Why not situate the same scene in a mela? A lot is lost when you take a quintessentially Indian genre and set it in a foreign country that doesn’t get much sun. It turns cold. And it looks ridiculous because the filmmakers don’t want to make a cool, Hollywood-style movie – they want all the elements of the great Indian tamasha, but they want it in Warsaw. It’s like making kebabs from a kielbasa recipe.
Another way to make these movies work – that is, if you don’t want to spend the time and effort on actually writing a script – is to fill the running time with moments that make use of the things that make your star a star, so that we don’t notice how underwritten the other characters are (the little girl Jhumki; Devi Lal’s father, played by Mithun Chakraborty). Just make the movie a start-to-finish show-reel of bits – like the animated flashback that showcases the hero’s herogiri, or the stretch where Devi Lal breaks into a dance as the song Saat samundar paar (from Vishwatma) booms on the soundtrack. Salman Khan, in bright red pants, is in his element here – he even copies Divya Bharti’s bunny-rabbit-wagging-its-tail dance moves from that song. But that’s it. The story has to do with Devi Lal also playing a robber named Devil – and not a single heist is staged well. All we get are tired action scenes – cars chasing a bus as a mother walks into the frame wheeling a baby carriage, that sort of thing. It’s depressing when, with all this money, even the technical departments don’t bother.
A number of good actors walk in and out of the frames – Saurabh Shukla, Sanjay Mishra, Rajit Kapoor, and an embarrassed-looking Randeep Hooda, who plays the thankless role Shashi Kapoor played in some of the Bachchan outings. I did enjoy watching Nawazuddin Siddiqui, though. The minute he enters the film, the sluggish proceedings suddenly come alive. His first scene is terrific. He doesn’t have much of a role – odd, considering he’s the villain – but what screen time he gets he chews up with relish. He sings old Hindi film songs. He laughs like a wheezy hyena. He punctuates his utterances with the sound of a ping pong ball hitting the paddle. He commits murder using bubble wrap. It’s strange that this supposed “art-film actor” gets so completely into the spirit of a masala movie and does his darnedest to keep us entertained. Is it too much to ask the same of others, that they earn their fat paycheques?
* Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani = see here
* Kal Ho Naa Ho = see here
* Telugu hit = see here
* Dabangg = see here
* Aare pritam pyaare = see here
* kielbasa = see here
* herogiri = the things that a hero does
* Saat samundar paar = see here
* Nawazuddin Siddiqui = see here
Copyright ©2014 Baradwaj Rangan. This article may not be reproduced in its entirety without permission. A link to this URL, instead, would be appreciated.