Brothers: Fraternal fracas

Genre: Action drama

Director: Karan Malhotra

Cast: Akshay Kumar, Siddharth Malhotra, Jackie Shroff, Shefali Shah, Ashutosh Rana, Jacqueline Fernandez

An old school potboiler where self-sacrificing mother is the cause of fire, Brothers simmers with emotion and action in a new shiny pan. When one becomes the pivot for the other, results are often whistle-inducing. Here director Karan Malhotra egged on by trainer Karan Johar provides enough kicks to keep the galleries in the game.

An adaptation of Warriors, Karan draws heavily from Gavin O’Connors’ film but ultimately he manages to place his own beast in the ring. It is full of clichés that we associate with this kind of blood fest but both the emotional and physical fights are skilfully staged so that you can’t punch the film into the mocking corner. It reminds of Apne. In fact, one smirks when one of the big names in the ring is called Luca. Remember it took the whole Deol family to outwit him. Here the emotions are more internalised and the fights are more stylised and realistic.

Punches are often followed by acerbic punch-lines like ‘zakhm hai par marham nahin’ and the groovy background score leaves scope for silences. And there is space for quirk as well. When one of the brothers falls in the ring, the mat has the graffiti of a mother and son. Even as you know the endgame you don’t mind the last round.

Johar is known for family dramas so what if it is a family of fighters. David (Akshay Kumar) and Monty (Siddharth Malhotra) are half brothers who share a tumultuous past ruined by their alcoholic father, Gary (Jackie Shroff), who once ruled the undercover fights on the streets of Mumbai. David moves on to carve out a new space with his wife (Jacqueline) and daughter but discovers that life doesn’t want him to be a physics teacher. There is more pain in store for him as he gravitates towards the ring. Meanwhile, Monty gets stuck with a father who wants to pay for his sins. As both brothers seek salvation in the ring, it gives the film the much needed frisson.

Karan tries to generate melancholy, attempts to explore dark corners in the human psyche but without giving up on the gloss and glycerine that we associate with Johar’s films as the duo clings on to the mainstream tropes. Until Shefali Shah emerges on the screen as the mother, it is difficult to believe in the back story of these grumpy boys. Her performance provides the tremor that pulls us into the story. Of course she is a note above her usual restraint self but this is the demand of the genre. The film also marks the return of Jackie Shroff. The last time we saw him acting was in a Tamil film Aaranya Kaandam. As the father grappling with his inadequacies, he manages to humanise Gary.

Karan has put enough players who can chew the scenery. The likes of Ashutosh Rana, Raj Zutshi and Kiran Kumar bring the required larger than life appeal to the proceedings. And amidst this loudness he asks his protagonists to underplay, to brood. It is an interesting contrast that works well for the narrative. Siddharth Malhotra is pitched as an enfant terrible, a raw talent while Akshay is moulded as a player driven by technique and described by his tattoos. After years, Akshay gets a chance to put his martial arts background to use and he doesn’t disappoint. With his beard and beefy body, Siddharth looks the part and those innocent eyes create a delicious mess. Jacqueline brings some much needed sunshine to the proceedings.

The production design is sleek as Karan manages to create the feel of a mixed martial arts tournament on screen and along the way he smartly places the whole brain versus brawn debate and makes a case for making these bloody fights legal.

The problem is, be it emotion or action, Karan is in no hurry to say cut. At times it works for the emotion to seep in but many times over elaboration dilutes the punch. The music is a let down. Kareena Kapoor deserved a better song and choreography for the special appearance.

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Printable version | May 3, 2021 8:02:50 AM |

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