Reviews

Rustom: Too smug for comfort

You smell a rat right away. It’s at the entry of the naval officer hero Rustom Pavri (Akshay Kumar) framed against the tricolour fluttering away in the background. Director Tinu Suresh Desai reinterprets the (in)famous K.M. Nanavati case of yore and builds a popular conspiracy theory around it in the spirit of today’s uber-patriotic times, quite conveniently at that. Kumar, plays the Nanavati figure while Ileana D’ Cruz is Cynthia (the philandering Sylvia from real life) and Arjun Bajwa plays Vikram Makhija (the playboy Prem Ahuja).



"Kuchh to hai jo pakad mein nahin aa raha hai (There is something that one is unable to figure out),” says the investigating cop Vincent Lobo (Pavan Malhotra) at some point. However, any marginally intelligent viewer would know where things are heading. Even though, the film itself very consciously tries to make a big deal of how much more there is to this seemingly simple, open and shut case of betrayal, jealousy and revenge.



Forget that there is nothing remotely credible or engaging in the thriller. The film, in fact, feels like a parody of the several murder mysteries and court room dramas we have seen down the ages. And an unintentionally funny one at that. Some moments in the second half are truly priceless, especially those that are to do with an orange dressing gown and a precariously held white towel that refuses to slip down the waist.



But, what is more irritating is the righteousness attributed to the killer protagonist – a virtuous Kumar, right down to the sanctimonious moustache and straight spine; then the overt guilt, perennially inclined head of Ileana and the talk of putting the Queen at stake in the game of chess, all for an eventual win. Add to that the “desh ki raksha/hifazat” angle and the double whammy of machismo of the Navy man—in the aid of the nation and the woman—and it gets way too smug for comfort. Kumar wrests the moral high ground, as a man, a husband and a much decorated officer. And the janta approves.





Director: Tinu Suresh Desai
Cast: Akshay Kumar, Ileana D’Cruz, Esha Gupta
Run time: 151 minutes


There is the constant harping on doing the right thing the wrong way. It all comes down to a combat situation, self defence, reflex action and ‘civilians ka vishwas’. Eventually, a kangaroo court comes to the rescue but not before turning the film into utter hotchpotch of a narrative.



In just a few scenes there is the fleeting mention of friction between the Sindhi community to which the victim belongs and the Parsis and you wonder if the film is trying to chart out an interesting, provocative terrain. But it never becomes anything more than a mere mention. Add to that, some strident, ominous music that keeps playing in the background to keep up the tension and anxiety when there is actually none.



D’ Cruz seems to be suffering from a bad case of makeup with the shade of pink leaking all over the face. Or is it the colour of shame? The characters on the side are rendered caricature like, defined by quirks. So you have Pavan Malhotra as the cop Vincent Lobo with his high-waisted trousers and irritating habit of clicking away the ballpen. Then there is Anang Desai as the judge who acts like a school principal. Desai looks as if he veered into the courtroom straight from the sets of the TV serial Khichdi where he played the irritable patriarch. Esha Gupta with her cigarette holders, gowns and perennially sour look is so assembled that she just seems to fall apart. And Sachin Khedekar goes on an acting overdrive as the prosecuting lawyer.



The period recreation of 1959 Bombay feels like a tacky, bad copy of the city that Anurag Kashyap’s Bombay Velvet created. Each frame screams retro, wants you to notice the bouffant hair, the satin gowns, the vintage cars and radio sets.



In fact, I wondered if it wouldn't have been better for the film to have been updated for contemporary times. A case in point being, the tabloid frenzy and trial by media unspooled by Rusi Karanjia's Blitz (Kumud Mishra as Eruch Billimoria) in the film versus the present where – things are much more in your face. Also, stealthy affairs of the heart could have had an added edge of complication in the mobile phone dominated times that we live in.

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Printable version | Nov 19, 2020 10:25:06 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/cinema/cinema-reviews/Rustom-Too-smug-for-comfort/article14568226.ece

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