melange Reviews

Raja Natwarlal: King con

A scene from the movie  

Kunal Deshmukh and Emraan Hashmi rework their Jannat connection with a subject that blends con and cricket. Known for playing characters whose moral centre is inconspicuous, Emraan plays small-time conman Raja who indulges in small-time frauds with his mentor Raghav (Deepak Tijori). When they attempt to increase their appetite they rub a South Africa-based tycoon Vardha (Kay Kay Menon) the wrong way. Raghav is bumped off and Raja sets out to take revenge by duping Vardha with the help of a master con artist Yogi (Paresh Rawal). The idea is to sell Vardha a T-20 team that doesn’t exist!

Beneath the superficial thrills of a con film, Deshmukh has put a layer of relationships. The bond between Raghav and Raja connects you to the narrative. If Raja is flamboyant, somebody governed by greed, Raghav is rooted — a family man for whom conning people is as ordinary a job as that of a librarian. Similarly, Raja’s affair with a bar dancer (Humaima Malick makes her debut) is spirited. These relationships are nothing new in films of Mahesh Bhatt protégés but Deshmukh ensures that we don’t switch off before the real action begins despite the fact that Yuvan Shankar Raja’s music doesn’t really set the romantic track on fire.

Like Special 26, Deshmukh presents fraudsters as some sort of artistes who take pride in their work. In this world the redemption no longer happens with the rona dhona of the heroine. In fact here she joins the scheme of things. Here the catharsis happens by executing a bigger scam. It is an interesting space for Hindi cinema where the moral angle is minimised and Natwarlal is eulogised with the hero adopting the conman’s real name Mithlesh Kumar Srivastava.

Ultimately, con films work if your suspension of disbelief is rewarded at the end. Here one returns with mixed feelings. Deshmukh has not taken Vardha’s indulgence with the game for granted. All along he keeps doubting the intentions of Raja. It is another matter that his passion for cricket overpowers his love for money. However, the way the final fraud pans out, it expects you to shed even common sense. These days IPL auctions are televised live and in this scenario Vardha’s ignorance becomes hard to digest, despite Kay Kay’s superlative performance.

He excels as the man who wants to use his money to earn respect. He has been in this space before but his wicked charm refuses to fade. Rawal is relatively low-key from his exacting standards, but Humaima is a good find. Not exactly made for song and dance, she gives a generic role some character. It is good to see Tijori back in the support cast. But the film belongs to Emraan and this cocky ambassador of consumerism repeats himself with flair with Sanjay Masoom providing some interesting one-liners that celebrate greed.

Raja Natwarlal

Genre: Thriller

Director: Kunal Deshmukh

Cast: Emraan Hashmi, Humaima Malick, Paresh Rawal, Kay Kay Menon, Deepak Tijori

Bottomline: The conman’s conviction is captivating but his tricks fail to deceive.

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Printable version | Apr 18, 2021 9:15:22 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/cinema/cinema-reviews/film-review-of-raja-natwarlal/article6363010.ece

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