Film: Saheb Biwi Aur Gangster Returns (Hindi)

Cast: Irrfan Khan, Jimmy Sheirgill, Mahie Gill, Soha Ali Khan, Raj Babbar

Director: Tigmanshu Dhulia

Right from the title Saheb, Biwi Aur Gangster Returns , you can see the shameless effort to milk a cash cow with blatant disregard to whether it makes sense or not.

Tigmanshu Dhulia’s holiday shoot in the Haveli delivers more or less what you would expect out of the franchise with assembly-line precision devoid of any art or sense, but for a couple of scenes, some great lines and terrific performances by the Saheb (Jimmy Shergill) and the Gangster (Irrfan Khan).

As a result, Saheb Biwi Aur Gangster Returns feels and sounds more like an ethnic version of Race 2 with a score borrowed from The Attacks of 26/11 . It’s the same formula after all. Two teams, two girls, one girl a side, everybody hooks up with everybody and conspires to kill the other.

At least Abbas-Mustan (producer-director of Race 2 ) had no notions of interpreting a classic that examines the politics of royalty in contemporary India which the first film did by experimenting with noir in the palaces, rarely seen before in our cinema.

To his credit, Tigmanshu Dhulia in Saheb, Biwi aur Gangster did explore not just power play between the royalty and the ambitious working class but also the sexual politics between the sexes. And all three parties — saheb, biwi and the gangster — were consumed by desire for power, money and status that they wouldn’t think twice about switching loyalties.

It’s like a game of chess where the queen (Mahie Gill cursed with a rather weak caricature of a character) can play both sides.

The possibilities of who double-crosses who are endless that anyone can write a Saheb, Biwi Aur Gangster plot generator as a drinking game. More so when you add the other woman (Soha Ali Khan) to the mix. Stuff that would excite TV writers to go on for 5,000 episodes.

But luckily for this franchise and for us, Dhulia is a good writer who can keep churning in the one-liners and employs actors who can knock them out of the park. There is a hilarious scene involving a minister caught in an awkward interview that is bound to bring the roof down. And Dhulia infuses these touches of quirky humour to provide relief to a rather longish soap operatic film where character motivations have the flimsiest of logic.

The twist at the end needs to be instantly nominated for an award for the worst ending ever.

But like Race (or Wild Things that mastered this format of a shocking game changing climactic twist every few minutes), Saheb, Biwi Aur Gangster Returns entertains as a leave-your-brains-behind variety of guilty pleasure if you’re into inexplicable ‘Hey, I didn’t see that coming’ reveals as entertainment.

But the unabashed sexualisation and exploitation of women (two item numbers involving plunging necklines in addition to the two leading ladies employed for sex scenes) for a film releasing on International Women’s Day... just too much irony!

Saheb, Biwi Aur Gangster Returns us... To that ugly dark side of Bollywood economics responsible for Race , Murder or Jism ! Skin and sin are in.

Sudhish Kamath