When globalisation and cable TV came to India, the cinemas of the North and the South reacted in contrasting ways. While Hindi cinema shifted camp to Switzerland and began catering to an NRI audience outside India, Tamil and Telugu cinema took to the streets and unleashed machismo in all its chauvinistic glory, almost spiteful of womenfolk who abandoned the cinemas after their newfound addiction to soaps on TV.
Cinema down South catered to the people who visited movie halls to whistle. People needed a hero they could worship, a demi-god who would provide release to their pent up frustrations and gratify their macho fantasies of taking on the bad guys, with or without the help of the system.
Wanted is exactly the kind of film hero-worshippers up North have missed and desperately wanted in years.
After nearly 15 years, the cinemas of the North and the South that drifted apart have come together, thanks to the return of the action hero, the dishoom-dishoom type, in mainstream Hindi films, a genre that remained almost exclusive to Akshay "Khiladi" Kumar, Suniel Shetty, Ajay Devgan and Sunny Deol in the Nineties.
Full credit to Murugadoss (for Ghajini) and now Prabhudeva who have succeeded in packaging these mindless action entertainers for a modern audience by playing around with form (Sample: that beautifully shot action sequence in strobe light). Thanks to technical slickness, style and stylisation, the kind of film that was once considered fit only for stand-alone single screens has made a smooth transition into multiplexes too.
Pokkiri seems to be the perfect script for Salman Khan, one that further channels his brash, arrogant and even violent bad boy image to its advantage, and the 'Last Action Hero' tag does not seem to be baseless either. Let's face it, the new brat-pack of boys, be it Ranbir or Imran or Shahid or Neil, are way too 'Chikna' to be taken seriously as action heroes and the slightly senior Abhishek Bachchan, John Abraham and Hrithik Roshan are content playing roles that require sophistication. The rest are happy doing comedies and the senior Khans show up in carefully chosen films once or twice a year.
Imagine the star-vation and the craving for the good old fashioned hero to return and beat the baddies to pulp with bare hands with none of those Hollywood-inspired Sanjay Gupta-ish gun-fight sequences where the heroes seem more concerned about their wardrobe, shades and styling than getting their knuckles bloody.
Salman Khan is the epitome of brawn over brain and so when he says:
"Ek Baar Jo Maine Commitment Kar Diya, Uske Baad, Main Apni Bhi Nahin Sunta" (Once I have made a commitment, I don't even listen to myself) the crowd is delighted with the mindlessness of the genre.
It takes a cool-cat to mouth these punch-lines before delivering those punches and Salman says it like he was born to do a role like this. What attitude, boss.
It's a delight to watch the good old Khan find his form in this formula film that celebrates the return of the action hero and takes on the deadliest of villains. This film seriously packs the most interesting caricature villains we have seen in Hindi cinema in a long time, and both Prakash Raj and Mahesh Manjrekar revel in these roles, relishing the deliciously evil parts they've got to sink their teeth into.
The gorgeous Ayesha Takia is a perfect foil to Salman, and do watch out for the scene in the lift to sample their chemistry. Vinod Khanna packs in a nice cameo and Prabhudeva does well to keep the suspense in tact.
Also, keep an eye out for the crowd-pleaser cameos with Anil Kapoor, Govinda and Prabhudeva himself. Paisa-vasool!
Cast: Salman Khan, Ayesha Takia, Prakash Raj, Mahesh Manjrekar
Storyline: A trigger-happy gangster goes on a shooting spree, messes with cops and gangsters, when he's not up to song and dance.
Bottomline: A slick, knock-out dishoom-dishoom flick