I’d heard that Knight and Day was really bad, and then, long after its release, I caught it on TV and found that it was quite fun. Sidhdharth Anand’s Hindi remake, titled Bang Bang!, could be something similar. It’s way too long for this kind of movie, but at least on TV you can change channels during the boring bits. But TV won’t give you what the screen does, the billboard-sized impact of one of Hrithik Roshan’s purest performances. I don’t mean “performance” in the “acting” sense – heaven knows the actor has been trying to do a lot of that recently, huffing and puffing his way through dramas like Agneepath and Guzaarish. But that’s not his forte. He seems to suffer from the curse that afflicts the spectacularly good-looking – they spend all their energy trying to convince us that there’s more to them than just those looks. But just as we go to an Irrfan Khan movie to see the embodiment of everymen, we go to a Hrithik Roshan film wanting to be blinded by star wattage. Both types of performers are important, and in Bang Bang! Roshan does what he does best. In scene after scene he sells his brand, treating the camera like a mirror, letting bloom that self-aware smile and saying, “Hey there, handsome.” This narcissism has always been his signature quality, and it works horribly against him when he’s trying embody quadriplegics and underworld dons. But here, it goes with his character, Rajvir – he’s a dashing spy, James Bond reincarnated as a Gucci parfum model.
Unfortunately, he’s paired with Katrina Kaif. She’s supposed to be playing a ditz, but asking for sparkling comic sass from an actress who can barely emote or enunciate is asking for the moon. There’s zero chemistry between the leads, though in the interest of fairness it must be said that Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz, in the original, didn’t exactly set the screen on fire either. Kaif plays a mousy nobody named Harleen, who works as a receptionist in a bank in Shimla. At home, she takes long showers while conversing with her grandmother, who likes to sit on the pot, in front of strategically displayed Garnier Fructis® products. One day, she decides to upend her boring life by going on a blind date. Who should turn up at the restaurant but Rajvir, who’s so smitten that he begins to dance for her amidst signboards for Johnson Tiles®. She joins him, and in that golden lighting they look like Greek gods. If they did what the film’s title suggested, Mount Olympus would be littered with the handsomest tykes ever.
Then, she discovers that he’s a thief. He’s stolen the Kohinoor. They’re on the run. You think the opportunities for product placements would rapidly diminish, but do not discount the creativity of a Bollywood filmmaker who’s after the big bucks. Rajvir and Harleen stop at a Pizza Hut® and order Mountain Dew®. They steal cars – and also talk about them, Scorpio® and Volvo® and Honda®. They are shot at by gunmen who have the worst aim ever in the history of the movies. They stop by a beautiful island. She wakes up in a bikini and walks out and sees him bronzed and shirtless, chopping wood. Later, he barbecues fish for her. Even later, he teaches her how to kiss, first swallowing her upper lip, then the lower. Somewhere, Barbara Cartland’s estate is gearing up for a lawsuit.
Knight and Day, really, is the perfect film to remake in Bollywood, and the reworking comes with solid masala echoes at the start and finish. The action is also pretty good. I particularly enjoyed a stretch in the ocean, where Rajvir and Harleen come off like cavorting dolphins. But the film needed better location photography. It needed better writing. (Some lines are really bizarre, as when the Pizza Hut® -chomping villain, played by Danny Denzongpa, accuses Indian bureaucracy of doing “corruption ke bazaar mein nagna naach”; not even nanga, but the purer form, nagna!). It needed better songs. And it needed a better director, someone with attitude and style. But the audience around me wasn’t complaining. They were devotees cheering for their gods. Or maybe they were just uncomplaining consumers, gorging themselves on Hrithik Roshan®. At this point, it’s become tough to separate performer from product.
* Knight and Day = see here
* Agneepath = see here
* Guzaarish = see here
* Gucci parfum = see here
* Kohinoor = see here
* Barbara Cartland = see here
* “corruption ke bazaar mein nagna naach” = dancing naked in the bazaar of corruption
Copyright ©2014 Baradwaj Rangan. This article may not be reproduced in its entirety without permission. A link to this URL, instead, would be appreciated.