Rating: One and Half Star
It is ironic that the latest Friday releases are increasingly causing the film-going audience of today to appreciate the cinema of the past. Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Gabbar is Back is one such production nightmare that can make fans nostalgic about Ramesh Sippy’s 1957 cult classic Sholay.
Professor Aditya (Akshay Kumar) loses his family in an accident that has its traces in the corrupt nexus between builders and government bureaucrats in the city of Mumbai. This angst-ridden common man turns into the modern day Messiah Gabbar (‘Naam se villain and kaam se hero’; or, a villainous name with heroic deeds). Regular kidnapping and murder of corrupt officials declares an open war between the bad man and the good cops, which resolves itself in a simplest, anti-climactic manner. The character of Shruti (Shruti Hassan) is thrown in for comic and romantic relief.
Grand sets and grander costumes… make for Bhansali’s signature style. Not that a revenge action drama with the theme of anti-corruption propaganda needs a Manish Malhotra ghaghara or a Satya Paul sari but if your star actress in a guest appearance (read as KareenaKapoor) is getting married, the least you could do is give her a proper wedding dress. Similarly if you want to rebuild romance between your lead actors, give them real life outdoor location as compensation for the lack of foreign locales. If the visuals dull the senses, the music numbs them completely. The much anticipated item number with the sensuous Chitrangada Singh failed to arouse any interest with its lackluster choreography and mediocre lyrics. Ditto with the romantic number featuring Kareena Kapoor! Seldom has the Bebo hotness dressed in a wet sari produced such lukewarm reaction. But then there are always new milestones in failure and some films are determined to be strong contenders.
So after the Bhansali box of magic has exhausted itself, the audience turns for some Sholay-ful drama. But this Basanti has only learnt to dance to the tune of disappointment. The reincarnation of Bollywood’s most iconic villain Gabbar as an awe-inspiring self-righteous anti-hero to combat corruption- for an initial script hearing, the film sounds like a million bucks! What’s more? This character also comes with a free package of readymade dialogues made dramatic under the penmanship of Salim Khan and Javed Akhtar. The title sequence superimposed with couple of these dialogues displays cutting edge digital production. The opening scene with the new age Gabbar behind the computer screen with the Kitne aadmi the dialogue playing in the background was headed for an impactful start. Similarly, the Tera Kya Hoga Kaalia dialogue, which ends the film adds a tinge of sardonic humour. However, very soon the audience realizes that the film is exactly this- a chain of powerful fragments stringed together on an otherwise baseless and insipid screenplay. Apart from the precious price of your ticket, your heart goes out to honest actors like Sunil Grover (Sadhu) whose marginal position could have created sympathy and identification had the writers lent some dialogues to those scenes where he is humiliated by the senior coterie of inspectors. To see such good actors juxtaposed with an ensemble of nondescript, miscellaneous actors is another tragedy. Fresh faces can add realism and authenticity to a film but here, unfortunately the actors look like headless chickens in a maze they can’t make sense of either. Even the arrangement of plot events is random and arbitrary; for instance the scene where Gabbar is driving on the road and bumps into Shruti. Even the segment where Gabbar and Shruti attend a wedding seems too forced only to insert the flashback sequence of Aditya’s marriage. Overall, the acting seems amateurish pretty much like the impromptu street plays used for promoting the film. Also, if the filmmakers were interested in portraying the power of the youth on college campuses, watching credible movies on similar subjects like Rakyesh Omprakash Mehra’s Rang De Basanti(2006) and Mani Ratnam’s Yuva (2004)would have done them good. They probably would have saved themselves the trouble of inventing a phony emulation.
All said and done, the last standing ovation is reserved for Akshay Kumar. In a film lacking in almost all elements of filmmaking, Kumar stands strong, steady and sincere. Even the most banal dialogues find some sanction in his voice since he does such a good job of pretending that they were the best lines ever written. His presence and persona on the screen overcomes the flaws of the scripted character on the page. Even in the hospital scene, which seemed more like a skit reconstructed for a Grade B comedy show, Kumar renders even the smallest reactions with the exact emotion.
In one of the suburban theatres, as a promotional gimmick, the filmmakers have erected a headstone announcing the death of Corruption on May 01, 2015. We hereby offer our most sincere RIP for Gabbar is Back too!