A gangster with hardly any sob story, Bachchhan Paandey’s (Akshay Kumar) writ runs large on Baagwa, an imaginary dust bowl in the north of India. Somebody, who doesn’t spare even his storyteller, the Awadhi Godfather’s intrepid life inspires a budding filmmaker Myra (Kriti Sanon) to make a gripping biopic. Helped by a friend and a wannabe actor Vishu (Arshad Warsi), the research for the film takes Myra on the trail of crazy henchmen of Paandey.
The lure of cinema cracks the hard nuts and Myra gets the script she wants, but in the meantime, Paandey, pushed by Vishu, gets ambitious and decides to be in the film in an “in and as” kind of role. It spirals into further goofy situations interspersed with bloody shootouts.
After surviving the antics of the unhinged one-eyed gangster for around 150 minutes, one comes out with the message that fear is an overvalued asset in the hands of a ruler. And that the message lies in the hands of the one who holds the strings of the puppet. Yes, there is much to read in the potboiler, an adaptation of Karthik Subbaraj’s Jigarthanda that questioned the traditional constructs of formulaic cinema in 2014.
However, director Farhad Samji has imbued the dark-shaded quirky comedy with the soul of a Sajid Khan film, burying the fun in the dust of Bagwa. It means the meta-narrative that drove Karthik’s film has been reduced to puerile slapstick that drags. The humour is so stale that even the combined comic timing of Akshay, Sanjay Mishra, and Pankaj Tripathi could not inject life into this flaccid film. Only Shaharsh Kumar Shukla and Abhimanyu Singh seem comfortable in the skin of their characters; everybody else seems to have put on a show.
In several scenes, one laughs only to not be disrespectful to the talent on display. Arshad has been asked to repeat his side-kick act; the only difference is the gender and age of his partner has changed. Warsi is undoubtedly good at striking comic chemistry, but we have seen this side of his so many times that it no longer provides the kick.
Like the comic punches, the action is almost equally laboured. Set in the eastern part of Uttar Pradesh, the film has the cosmetic feel of a Western in terms of the background score, colour palette, and of course, the stylish representation of outlaws. The lazy swagger of Akshay is in place, but after a while, his slo-mo walk seems like an advertisement of a cold drink being played on loop, with somebody whispering from the background, “Look at him.”
With the casting of Akshay as the centerpiece, the surprise factor that worked for the original goes missing, as the meat of some of the other characters has been gobbled up by the star. Instead of Myra, it is Paandey who gets a rudimentary backstory. Samji has cast Kriti in the crucial role of the director played by Siddharth in the original. She is competent but fails to push Akshay, something which the story required to breathe.
Bachchhan Paandey is currently running in theatres