Sadak 2 on Disney+ Hotstar, with Alia Bhatt, Aditya Roy Kapur: A disaster at every conceivable level

Posted on September 15, 2020


The only success of the film is that it becomes a powerful tool for anyone who wants to battle nepotism. I mean: Mahesh Bhatt’s younger daughter plays the heroine in the sequel to a film which featured Mahesh Bhatt’s older daughter…

Spoilers ahead…

When people howled that Sadak 2 was a dog, I felt it was an overreaction. I mean, maybe the movie is bad, but surely it can’t be as bad as they’re saying it is. But when you watch the film, you see that it’s not bad at all. “Bad” is too mild a word for what Sadak 2 is. This is an expanse of awfulness so unprecedented from a major-name filmmaker (okay, a once major-name filmmaker) that the first viewer who watched it must have felt like Columbus: it must have been like setting foot on uncharted territory. Henceforth, film ratings scales will have to range from FIVE STARS to SADAK 2. It’s hilariously bad. It’s howlariously bad. It’s… owl-ariously bad. There’s an actual owl in the screenplay. Its name is Kumbhkaran. It’s set loose on Gulshan Grover, because in the world of this film, when you want to kill a gangster, you set loose on him an owl named Kumbhkaran. Oh, the ignominy for the gangster. You want to die a death of glory, taking a bullet in the heart, still standing, smiling a fuck-you! smile at the police. Instead, you succumb to owl-pecking.

The owl may be a metaphor for this movie’s badness. You see, for the longest while, our feathered friend is nowhere in sight – though you may recall his human equivalent from the first film. Ravi (Sanjay Dutt) was an insomniac, a (wait for it!)… night owl! (Ooh, how devilishly clever!) He’s still a taxi driver, and he’s still suicidal — in Sadak, he wanted to kill himself because his sister died, and here, he wants to kill himself because his wife Pooja (Pooja Bhatt) died. Maybe it would help if Pooja didn’t keep talking to him from beyond the grave, and if he didn’t keep responding. Or maybe he just wants to escape mouthing lines like this one: “Kiske liye jee-oon main? Jisne meri zindagi ko zindagi di, woh to chali gayi!” (I’ll attempt an in-spirit translation: “The wife that gave life to my life has left this life and gone to the afterlife.”)

For about thirty seconds, I amused myself with a cunningly meta touch. “Hum tere bin kahin reh nahin paate”, the chartbusting Nadeem-Shravan number from Part 1, plays on the radio inside Ravi’s taxi. As far as I recall, Ravi did not record the song while he sang it in 1991. After Pooja’s death, did he – like the protagonist in Woody Allen’s The Purple Rose of Cairo — step out of the screen and into the real world, run to the nearest computer, download the .mp3, and re-enter the screen? Or did Pooja courier it to him from wherever she was? Or was it Mahesh Bhatt’s doing? Did he read his screenplay and think: “Fucking hell, there’s an owl in here, with a name from the Ramayana. I’d better play a song from the older film to at least remind people of the filmmaker I was!”

The keen viewer, then, may notice another meta touch. It’s the point where the heroine Aarya (Alia Bhatt) says, “Mujhe kya pata tha ki mera saga baap, my daddy, mujhe maarna chahta hai!” You wonder if Aarya is saying the line, or Alia is. You’ve heard of “career suicide”. This may be “career murder”. Other fathers have been guilty of this crime, certainly. But when Harry Baweja gave his son Harman Love Story 2050, it came with a fifty-crore budget (for 2008!), a time machine and Priyanka Chopra. Mahesh Bhatt gives Alia… an owl. Sadak 2 made me recall what the critic Baburao Patel said of a Shantaram movie in Filmindia: something along the lines of “mental masturbation of a senile mind”. Is this what you do to your (I apologise in advance) owl-aad?

Let’s take a minute here to mourn remember Mahesh Bhatt, the original iconoclast. He was Ram Gopal Varma before Ram Gopal Varma. He was the director under whose gaze Hindi cinema grew chest hair and began to carry a condom in its wallet — and like most of his flaws-and-all work in the eighties and nineties, Sadak carried a charge. The outline may have come from Taxi Driver, but it was its own thing: a mainstream movie in which the hero’s sister had contracted a venereal disease, the hero’s best friend was in love with a sex worker, and the villain was a eunuch who’d channelled all the misery she’d endured into pure hate. And now, after two decades, we have a sequel with no trace of Mahesh Bhatt’s DNA: unless, of course, you count the heroines. Pooja plays a photo on the wall. Alia plays an heiress who wants Ravi to drive her someplace where she can bring down a godman. Makarand Deshpande plays this part like an actor who set out to audition for Shakuni in BR Chopra’s Mahabharat, lost his way in the Thar desert, and ended up somewhere in Mount Kailash.

All that’s okay, but where does the owl come in! Shaant, gadhadhar Bheem! It belongs to Aarya’s boyfriend Vishal (Aditya Roy Kapur), and he has it with him in a cage as he steps out of jail. Say what? Yes, jail. Vishal was arrested while defending Aarya during an attempt on her life. He goes to jail. And when he comes out, he has more stuff than he went in with. He has not just Kumbhkaran, but also a guitar. And a backpack filled with… who knows! Now you see why the owl is a metaphor for the overall badness. It’s a sign that anything goes. Sadak 2 is the kind of movie where Vishal could have stormed out of prison in a golden chariot emblazoned with the insignia of the sun god Ra and you still would be reacting the same way.

Why do Aarya and Vishal fall in love? The answer is a hoot. Why are there so many bland songs that serve no narrative function? Maybe we should ask this question to a film that actually cared. The only pure success of Sadak 2 is that it becomes a powerful tool for anyone who wants to battle nepotism. I mean, imagine this: Mahesh Bhatt’s younger daughter plays the heroine in the sequel to a film which featured Mahesh Bhatt’s older daughter and Sunil Dutt’s son, and here, we also have Siddharth Roy Kapur’s brother and Jisshu Sengupta, son of Bengali actor Ujjwal Sengupta. Heck, even Kumbhkaran is the name of the brother of a legendary villain. One could also make the case for reverse-nepotism, here. Alia Bhatt, being a popular star, perhaps decided to help out her father and sister, in which case Sadak 2 may mark the first instance of nepotism going up the family tree.

What makes you squirm is that this nonsense is going to be dismissed as “masala” by those who don’t know better. A solid twist involving Aarya’s father is not used as the interval point. Ravi sings “Maar diya jaaye ya chhod diya jaaye”, because, apparently, invoking a song from Sadak wasn’t enough, and now he has to go back a couple of decades to a point where screenwriters actually knew how to write big for the screen. The climax features a trishul-impaling, which I have to admit, gives the ensuing death a little more dignity than owl-pecking, though the conceit is way too overwrought for a film this… urban. Besides, no self-respecting masala movie would have this line: “Yeh rishta DELETE ka button dabane se khatam nahin hoga?” As I heard these awful words, I imagined them being given the “rasode mein kaun tha” treatment!

Oh, oh, maybe this line deserves it more. When Aarya goes missing, her father stops eating. Her hysterical stepmother (Priyanka Bose) tells someone (the doctor maybe?), “Jab se yeh gayab hui hai, anna ka ek daana inhone nahin chhua hai.” Apparently, “kuch khaaye nahin hai” is too mundane. You need Mahabharata-era phrases like “anna ka daana”. More hilariously, the man, nearby, is pouring himself a whiskey, which is made of fermented grain, which is — hello! — “anna ka daana”, woman! Your husband is just consuming it straight, is all. I grinned at that, and also at the post-credits thank-you to a consultant neuro-psychiatrist. It gives the feeling that they actually went around and did some research while writing this dreck, though I was heartbroken to see not one consultant owlist being named. Birds have feelings too, you know!

Copyright ©2020 Baradwaj Rangan. This article may not be reproduced in its entirety without permission. A link to this URL, instead, would be appreciated.