Somebody who understands the heartbeat of Hindi heartland, Tigmanshu Dhulia has come up with a formulaic film. In search of a blockbuster, Dhulia, with star power on his side this time, is a little too keen to reach out to the universe disappointing the discerning in the process. The dialect, the setting, the attitude, the social arithmetic, and the power politics of Poorvanchal are all in place but the seamlessness of the storyline, the consistency in characterisation and depth in emotional conflict that we associate with Dhulia are sorely missing.
Together with writer Amaresh Misra, he fires some really potent one-liners that make you appreciate his understanding of not just the language but the ground realities of a region where people can kill for pride, where caste is paramount to all other identities, where outlaws are no longer an alternative but a necessity. However, overall the way he has mounted the film, the killer instinct is missing. In an attempt to be fast paced, it seems he has deliberately lowered the guard, diluted the nuances. The socio-political comment comes across as an addendum as he seems more interested in packaging all the ‘items’ for the box office.
Right from the title to the editing pattern, he is unnecessarily competing with the remakes of South Indian flicks. His drama has so much inherent rasa that he doesn’t need to go for the exaggeration of an action comedy. He just needed a bigger scale; the change in tone is uncalled for. Cinematographer P.S. Vinod’s camera goes breathless in Lucknow but one fails to associate with the emotional integrity of the film. There are jump cuts in the narrative and convenient turns making it a jarring attempt from a writer-director whose pen seldom does doublespeak.
Inspired by Jai-Veeru, Dhulia has chiselled Raja and Rudra, the hot-headed boys who are sucked into the heady nexus of politics and crime in Eastern Uttar Pradesh. As they rise, the stakes get bigger and when their bloated egos come in the way, they get to experience the other side of the barrel. The boys don’t know that their master (Raj Babbar impresses in the stock character of a powerful politician who nurtures criminals to survive the rough-and-tumble of politics) has feet of clay and it is a businessman (Gulshan Grover) who runs the show. Raja’s anger doesn’t emanate from a solid base. Through Raja, Dhulia seems to be expressing his own anger against the corporates, with whom he has had some troublesome time.
With a malleable actor, he could have tided over the troughs in writing and expression but Saif chooses to play it rather straight as Raja. He has played characters outside his comfort zone in the past but here his anger as a brahmin in rage is not heartfelt. The punch lines don’t really convey the weight and when he falls in love it doesn’t make you swoon. He doesn’t really catch the sur of the character. Yes, he is cocky but that is about all. It remains what they call stunt casting in industry parlance. The lack of continuity in make-up is all the more jarring. No doubt, he is hamstrung by inconsistent writing because the love angle never generates curiosity with Sonakshi Sinha being sidelined in a thankless role of a wannabe actress from Bengal. Her unconvincing character graph and the Kolkata plot stand out like a sore thumb. A weak musical score doesn’t help their cause either.
It is Jimmy Shergill as Rudra who shows the way. A constant force in Dhulia’s films, Jimmy once again excels. He belongs to this space.
In a scene Raja calls Rudra, Shashi Kapoor. It is an innocuous jibe made to put a smile on your face but here you mutter under breath you are no Amitabh Bachchan, Raja. Before the release, the casting of Vidyut Jamwal as the counterpoint of Raja seemed like an attempt to give the star a green corridor and Dhulia fails to surprise. The presence of commercial entities like Gulshan Grover and Chunky Pandey doesn’t add to the atmospherics. They look self-conscious in earthy surroundings. So much so that Grover has to say he is playing a Marwari businessman in as many words and Chunky has perhaps put stones in his mouth to sound like a slimy Tiwari. As a second rung politician, Balram Yadav, theatre actor Rajiv Gupta shows how to do it without any ornamentation reminding that Dhulia should stick to his guns to remain a force in the business.
Likeable only in parts, Raja fails to fire imagination!
It starts where Vicky Donor ends. What if all the children born out of Vicky’s sperms start looking for their biological father after two decades.
David Wozniak (Vince Vaughn) is a lovable loser. He is considered the odd one out in the family’s meat business. His relationship with his girlfriend is on a rocky ground and he has to return the money he loaned from the mob. At this juncture of life, he is reminded that during his youthful days he did something monumental. Under the guise of Starbuck, he donated sperms which resulted in 533 children. Now, 142 of them have filed a law suit to know their father’s identity.
The premise draws you in. It raises important issues like the anonymity clause is signed between the donor, the doctor and the couple but it leaves out the person who is going to be affected the most in the long run. David’s lawyer argues that the children wouldn’t have been there in the first place if the anonymity clause was not there. But are human emotions governed by clauses of law?
Director Ken Scott, who has adapted it from his Canadian film, has mounted it is as a light feel-good film. In the mix of comic situations and sentimentality, the tension never comes to the head.
The circumstances seem complex but in the first few minutes you realise that it is designed not to test or even tease your intelligence.
There is no space for mothers for the film is about fatherhood. It is as safe as you can play. David may not be good at money making but when it comes to matters of compassion he is in business.
So when he decides to play a guardian angel to his children, we get some snapshots drenched in syrup. A boy who is trapped in a wrong job, a girl who is addicted; a boy who is physically challenged, Scott gives us some stock emotions to play with even as David discovers it takes more than a sperm to become a father.
The most interesting is Viggo, who discovers David’s identity but doesn’t reveal it because he wants him all to himself. The good thing is, in trying to be affable, Vaughn doesn’t over do the schmaltzy stuff. Chris Patt as David’s lawyer is good fun. Off and on it makes you smile but more often than not Scott’s delivery is laboured! Made for a lazy Sunday afternoon.