Raja Natwarlal movie review: Lazy writing spoils a potential con flick

Rating: 2.5 stars

Emraan Hashmi, Paresh Rawal and Kay Kay Menon’s performances fail to infuse life into the dull proceedings.

Kunal Deshmukh’s Raja Natwarlal came with loads of expectations. Firstly, it is a follow up to his much-appreciated movies – Tum Mile and Jannat 2. Secondly, it brings back his actor-friend Emraan Hashmi to his loyal fan base after experimentation – Ghanchakkar and Ek Thi Daayan. And thirdly, it’s a con flick – a genre that hasn’t been exploited enough in Bollywood.

The plot revolves around a small-time con man Raja (Emraan) who seeks assistance from his mentor Yogi (Paresh Rawal) with the intention to take revenge from the top-level gangster Varda Yadav (Kay Kay Menon).

Raja and his partner-in-crime Raghav (Deepak Tijori) hustle their way through the city of Mumbai and live off their meager cons. During one such con, Raghav gets murdered and Raja’s life takes a grave turn instigating him to avenge the killers of his best friend and partner. On his journey of revenge, he decides to team up with Yogi who is a senior con artist but has been on a self-imposed sabbatical. Raja, after much persuasion, convinces Yogi that its imperative for him to avenge Raghav’s death and the person responsible is an influential and powerful man named, Varda. Along with a team, Raja and Yogi pull of a massive con that will bring all of Varda’s riches and reputation to the ground. Raja and Yogi encounters several twists and turns leading up to the final stage; but do they make it or will the final con act fall apart for all to witness?

It’s an interesting premise with high potential to become an excellent con flick. But it fails to reach that level because the writing is lazy. Guess a few more drafts, tightening of the screenplay and a bit more ideation could have led the writer to a thicker plot. There is a certain casualness to the proceedings, which gets tedious for you as a viewer. The first half is used to build up romance between Emraan and his love interest – a bar dancer played by debutant Humaima Malick. The second half suddenly gets grimmer, faster and better and is actually where the story evolves. And in between there is a spate of incidents through which the director tries to add his touch of Bollywood masala – drama, songs and even a bit of titillation. Mere waste of time! The dialogues are no better and prove complete misfit. To add to its woes, this film does not even have good music which usually is a draw in other Emraan Hashmi films.

The way characters switch between Cape Town (South Africa) and Bandra will put superman to shame. This is not what we call cinematic liberty. Its paragon. Each time Humaima breaks into a song, you feel screaming – Hmmm Mai Ma!

Technically, the film is shot well. Performances are fine. Emraan Hashmi is his usual self but I guess his last best role was in Milan Luthria’s Once Upon A Time In Mumbaai. Debutant Humaima Malick is okay. Kay Kay, known to be a prolific performer, unfortunately retains same expression throughout the film.

It is however Paresh Rawal who shines in his role but as you walk out of theatre, you wonder the seasoned actor should have given more screen space. Director Kunal oscillates between creating engaging con tricks and serious plot developments, and you feel like you are getting conned too.

What could have been a much better film ends up as too mediocre a fare. You won’t miss much if you don’t buy the movie ticket. Buck up Kunal Deshmukh, we know you can do better.

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