News is just out that they’re planning a sequel to Blade Runner, which was released in 1982. So as belated follow-ups go, Ab Tak Chhappan 2 isn’t all that belated. Still, the decision to add another chapter to Shimit Amin’s 2004 film (this one is directed by Aejaz Gulab) is a curious one. It was neither a blockbuster, not a cult film – so why bother? Especially now, when the gangster genre that Ram Gopal Varma birthed is all but dead. Those stories about straight cops, crooked politicians and ruthless gangsters were fresh then – but no longer. Why didn’t they simply cash in on the first film’s success a few years later, when the protagonist, the encounter cop Sadhu Agashe (Nana Patekar), was still relatively young and would have been able to unleash more mayhem, with a bigger body count? They could have called it Ab Tak 112.
But this long wait has given us a slightly different Sadhu Agashe. The encounter cop in his prime is now a retired man in a village in Goa. And what a retired life it is, filled with fishing on calm waters, an endless supply of coconut water, games with the local kids, and the sounds of son Aman (Tanmay Jahagirdar) playing the piano. Sadhu asks Aman about the words he’s going to fit into a new tune. Aman says he hasn’t thought about the lyrics yet. Sadhu says the words should come first, then the tune. Clearly, he has no experience with the way songs are composed for films.
But this idyll must come to an end – otherwise there’s no movie. After some very generic exposition about the underworld, the big shots in Mumbai decide that Sadhu needs to be brought back to clean up crime. He refuses at first. He only cares about himself, his son, the people around him – he doesn’t care what happens outside. But of course he does. Aman reminds him that there’s still a cop under this man pretending to be at peace fishing and sipping coconut water. And thus we’re whisked back into the territory of the earlier film, where cops shoot first and ask questions later.
Ab Tak Chhappan 2 is perfectly serviceable, but that’s about it. We get several action sequences – in a cowshed, in a public toilet, outside a brothel – but we don’t know who’s being shot, how important they are in the overall scheme of the underworld. The only gangster who’s detailed to some extent is Rawle (Raj Zutshi), who putters about in a motorized wheelchair and has the kind of conversations with Sadhu that another gangster did in the first film. As for the good guys, they’re delineated in a few quick strokes. One cop in Sadhu’s team is overweight. Another is celebrating his wedding anniversary. In these films, it’s always some cop’s wedding anniversary.
But it is nice to see Nana Patekar again. The best scenes in the film involve his conversations with Aman – while making an omelet; while chopping vegetables – and with Shalu (Gul Panag), a crime reporter who’s trying to complete a book on encounter cops that her father started writing. I wish this had been the movie – the story of how a former encounter cop is now transformed into an ordinary “middle-class baap,” worrying about his son’s decision to make a profession out of his passion. Patekar’s performing style is so often about heavy-duty histrionics that it’s a pleasure to be reminded how good he can be even at low volumes. When his superior remarks about his physical fitness at this age, Sadhu says, “Goli umar nahin dekhti. Pata nahin kab zaroorat pade.” (Bullets don’t care how old you are. You never know when this physique will prove useful.) Later, after a tragedy, he tells the people who’ve come to commiserate: “Hamdardi nahin chaiye. Thanks for coming.” (I don’t need your sympathy.) One’s a lightweight line. The other one is drenched in sorrow. But both come off in an even tone, befitting a man who won’t let his emotions show. If nothing else, I hope this film is a reminder to filmmakers that Patekar’s still out there, and a long way from retired.
- Ab Tak Chhappan= 56 kills so far
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