Delhi

Korean action, Indian soil

ometimes it’s the odd things about a film that strike you the most. Like how Rocky Handsome is not just a remake of the South Korean blockbuster, The Man from Nowhere , it even has a villain, Atilla, and a young girl Naomi (Diya Chalwad), who could pass off for Koreans.

Well wait: Kazu Patrick Tang, who plays Atilla, is a Thai martial arts expert, am told. The Korean inspiration doesn’t stop at the story or the actors’ faces. The shot-taking — the close up of the hands, the hoodies, the sudden rain, the neon-lit streets — are visual nods to the cinema of another world, not India certainly, despite being located firmly in Goa, complete with a romantic Seychelles Tourism flashback.

The way the characters inhabiting the fringes are framed — from a drug addict mom to a child-trading aunty — makes them seem from some other place out there. At times, it appears as though the film conveniently forgot its own dialect to speak in another lingo, though not as fluently. The India touch also sneaks in, for the worse actually, in the painful love angle and the needless songs, in the ineffectual cops (complete with a comic seem-alike of Fredericks from the TV serial CID ) and ugly, loony baddies who appear to have strayed into Rocky Handsome from a Ram Gopal Varma film. One of the villains is turned into incredibly hammy imbecile, as if to match pace with the comic cop. Shakti ka santulan (the balance of power), as they say. And then you have John Abraham’s impassive turn that is supposed to pass for intensity.

Abraham plays the brooding, quiet, “merciless killer, secret agent”, and mind you, a “true patriot”, with a perfectly sculpted body which is visible even from under his shirt. His profession has come at a great cost to his personal life. So when the neighbouring little girl Naomi, who he is silently fond of, gets kidnapped, he goes on a rampage to trace her. On this mission he busts the drug cartels and organ-trading and child-trafficking businesses. And, of course, tackling the big daddy of villainy, Kevin (the director, Kamat himself), who unwinds by enjoying a good meal after a bloody shootout.

The Man from Nowhere aside, the film is also reminiscent of Luc Besson’s Leon aka The Professional and, of course, last year’s Bajrangi Bhaijaan in how it hinges on the hunky hero’s association with a child. However, this isn’t the winsome, uber cute, tug at your heartstrings, Bajrangi Bhaijaan kind of bonding.

The friendship with the little girl doesn’t quite strike a chord. She is sweet from certain angles but utterly ineffective, too precocious and rehearsed (right down to a tear-inducing Meena Kumari bit of acting) than spontaneous. She is burdened with cheesy lines such: “If I hate you I will have no one else to love”, and no it certainly doesn’t make you go “awwww” but annoys the hell out of you.

With all the effort gone into executing good hand-to-hand combat, eye-popping knife moves and assorted action sequences, the relationships and feelings get a short shrift. Slow-motion, flashbacks, back-and-forth narrative and split screens seem to be the answer for anything demanding stylishness and Rocky Handsome is over-indulgent with these elements.

In staging scenes smartly, Kamat forgets to invest in the emotional core, even while trying to make use of it. Why weigh down the film with it then?

An adaptation can always be made with one’s own distinct touch. But Rocky Handsome is happy and satisfied in living off borrowed aesthetics even while clinging on to its Indian self for all the wrong reasons. It ends up being neither here nor there. This is a nowhere film that alienates and makes for a pronounced disconnect. It also makes one long for the return of the good old-fashioned, home grown Indian action hero who knew what he stood for. I will take a Ghayal Once Again over this any day.



Rocky Handsome

Director: Nishikant Kamat

Starring: John Abraham, Nishikant Kamat, Diya Chalwad, Shruti Haasan

Run Time: 126 min




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Printable version | Jun 12, 2021 9:53:18 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Delhi/korean-action-indian-soil/article8398271.ece

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