Every time a John Abraham film is released, his trainer must think, “Kaching.” So too, Rocky Handsome, whose very title smells of a gym advertisement: Converting the smooth and ugly to rocky and handsome, since 1981. Abraham’s body is so carefully lit and showcased, the film, at points, resembles a post-workout show reel. Watch him take a shower, arms spread wide, like wings, all the better to isolate the V of the torso. Watch the low-angle shot capture his eight-pack, the loving lighting throwing into sharp relief each of the eight in the pack. The way these actors keep upping the fitness ante, you wonder what’s next. A twelve-pack, starting all the way from the forehead? If you’re worried that this might render the face immobile, that’s no worry in Rocky Handsome, because Abraham plays one of those killers whose face reveals nothing. Then again, you could say that calling up Abraham to portray an expressionless man is a little like casting Yul Brynner as a bald guy. The one time we get a semblance of acting is when Rocky, contorted with pain, extracts a bullet from his side, though I must confess I was more worried about the punctured muscle. Does this now make the configuration a seven-pack? Is that allowed? Where does the rulebook stand on odd-numbered packs?
Nishikant Kamat’s film is a remake of the South Korean thriller The Man From Nowhere, whose appeal, I suspect, came from its sadism and creepiness. Some of that is in this film too, especially in a nicely choreographed action sequence towards the end, when Rocky stabs a henchman at three different points in the upper arm and then drags the knife through them in a straight line. I’d have enjoyed Geometry so much more with illustrative videos like this one. But in the non-violent stretches, we’re stranded with a story that revolves around the bonding between the sullen Rocky and the chatty little girl next door (Diya Chalwad), who’s given melodramatic lines Meena Kumari might have balked at. The trouble is, we never feel this bonding enough to care about Rocky’s mission to retrieve the child when she’s kidnapped. It isn’t a good sign in a movie when you agree with the villain when he asks Rocky, “Lagti kya hai teri?”
The unintentional laughs kept me going for a while, like the time the ANC (Anti Narcotics Cell) people decide to frame Rocky by sending an email, from his account, to… the US President, with this text: “I KILL YOU.” It must be the world’s first instance of assassination by bad grammar. Elsewhere, the real villains of this story decide that adding colour to one’s character is the same as acting like coked-up cartoons. They’re meant to be sinister figures doing drug deals and harvesting organs – they’re so dangerous that we get an establishing shot of a scorpion crawling atop a compound wall. How the scorpion got up there, I don’t know – maybe it went to the same trainer as John Abraham? Shruti Haasan, in flashbacks, plays the reason Rocky Handsome is the way he is. When he sees her getting wet in the rain, he asks what she’s doing and she replies, “Boondon se baatein.” Even the writers must have winced, for they quickly seat her in a car and send a speeding truck in her direction.
The entire film feels like a dated rock-music video, with emotions relegated to the wailing vocals. Even a murder is orchestrated to something that sounds like a Gregorian chant. Plus, everything is ultra-stylised, with split screens, coloured filters, and a cavernous gangster’s lair illuminated by hundreds of candles and a baroque chandelier – if Sanjay Gupta and Sanjay Leela Bhansali had a baby, it’d look like this movie. The one angle I wanted to see more of was that with Suhasini Mulay playing a Fagin-like corrupter of innocents – these children become part of the drug trade. But this subplot is glossed over in favour of moments where an addict (who’s also a stripper) hits a supplier on the head with… a cricket bat that just happens to be lying around in her dressing room. Why not… barbells? Equally ludicrous – but at least that would go with the general aura of the movie.
- The Man From Nowhere = see here
- “Lagti kya hai teri?” = What is she to you?
- “Boondon se baatein” = rapping with raindrops
Copyright ©2016 Baradwaj Rangan. This article may not be reproduced in its entirety without permission. A link to this URL, instead, would be appreciated.