“Baadshaho”… A dreary heist thriller that can’t even be bothered to stage some decent action

Posted on September 3, 2017

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Spoilers ahead…

In Milan Luthria’s Baadshaaho, Ileana D’Cruz plays Rani Gitanjali Devi, who rules over a small part of Rajasthan. She begins an affair with her bodyguard, Bhawani (Ajay Devgn). During a song, she goes up to the terrace of her palace — Bhawani is waiting for her. She walks up to him, drops her royal coat (under which she’s nude), and reveals her royal back to the camera, which is poised provocatively, just stopping short of the royal buttocks. Bhawani, meanwhile, is clad from top to toe, and looking at Devgn’s expression, you don’t get the impression that a beautiful woman is throwing herself at him. He looks ready to say, “Child, you’re going to catch a cold.”

This isn’t about age-inappropriateness (though that’s certainly there) or selective female nudity (though that’s there as well). This is about what it will take for Devgn to emote again. There was a spate of films (Company, Zakhm) where he seemed capable of tapping into something raw inside — now I wonder if his performances were more due to the directors (Ram Gopal Varma, Mahesh Bhatt). How can you make a masala movie with a leading man devoid of spice? Devgn’s introduction scene, where he withstands a tear gas attack, is weak. His delivery of Rajat Arora’s dialogue is weak — though one could argue whether anyone can put across lines like “Aapke sone ka carat mhaare character ko barbaad nahin karega.” He still seems to be saying, “Child, you’re going to catch a cold.”

The story is set during the Emergency, which seems to be the flavour of the season. We got a drama (Indu Sarkar). We now have this heist thriller (Bhawani and Co. have to stop the queen’s treasure from being looted by the army). What next? A throwback love story where the rich heroine’s father hands a goon a pair of surgical scissors to perform a vasectomy on the slum-dwelling hero? Someone certainly seems to have snipped Emraan Hashmi’s ardour. The actor plays Dalia — he’s Veeru to Bhawani’s Jai. He gets to partake in an item number with Sunny Leone, but thereon, he’s strangely neutered. He doesn’t even attempt to kiss Esha Gupta (another teammate). Then again, would you derive much fun from life if you were named after a breakfast cereal?

Baadshaho (which means ‘kings’) promises B-movie entertainment, but the action scenes are unexciting, the writing is awful. (Check out the scene in the car where Bhawani realises something about his royal squeeze.) Sanjay Mishra offers some relief as a crotchety old lockpicker. I got a big laugh from the scene where he plies his trade wearing a horse’s blinders. Sharad Kelkar gives the film’s best performance as a cop named Durjan Singh (in these films, there’s always someone named Durjan Singh), and we finally get some masala swagger. (Unlike the others, he seems to truly believe he’s a part of this world.) Had Gitanjali thrown herself at him, it would have been a very different story. The title would have referred to the occupants of the royal nursery nine months later.

Copyright ©2017 Baradwaj Rangan. This article may not be reproduced in its entirety without permission. A link to this URL, instead, would be appreciated.

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Posted in: Cinema: Hindi