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Not quite on the right track

BEYOND BORDERS: Raju Bambani falls in love with his boss’s son’s foreigner girlfriend, Shaily

BEYOND BORDERS: Raju Bambani falls in love with his boss’s son’s foreigner girlfriend, Shaily  

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The first Gujarati film by Phantom Films turns on the curiosity but fails to rise to expectations

The film opens with a fair bit of promise. The talk of Navratri being a safety valve to let off the frustrations in life; the sly consumption of Glenfiddich in the prohibition State, even by cops, in tea cups and saucers; cheeky references to the Ambanis: all this holds enough assurance of irreverence.

To top it all, the focus is on a hit-and-run case involving a rich young man and the blame being passed on to the driver. You wonder if a reel critique of the real case(s) will follow.

Conformist, populist

No such luck. Far from being a provocative square peg in a round hole, which we expect a Phantom productions’s film to be, Wrong Side Raju is as conformist and populist as it gets, especially as it heads towards a convenient but terrible twist of a resolution.

Raju Bambani (Pratik Gandhi) is the driver of rich real estate developer Amitabh Shah (Asif Basra), and also doubles up as a bootlegger. But his heart is in a start-up, a travel company he wants to set up with a friend, for which he needs several lakhs. Then there’s Shah’s son, Tanmay (Kavi Shastri), who also wants to set up a business — a casino in Malaysia — and wants his dad to dole out cash.

Meanwhile, Raju falls head over heels in love with Tanmay’s foreign girlfriend Shaily (Kimberley Louisa McBeath), who gyrates fetchingly to garba and insists Raju ties up her blouse strings (cliché alert!). Shaily keeps insisting on her share of daaru in a manner that is more irritating than cute (what it’s meant to be). Things come to a head when Tanmay is involved in a car crash and Raju gets falsely accused of it.

Ludicrous twist

The sloppy script can’t decide what it wants the film to be. A thriller? A courtroom drama? A corporate tug-of-war? A love story?

Things get way too protracted and the twist in the tale is ludicrous and clumsily thrust upon us. What’s more, things are spoon-fed to the audience rather than emerging bit by bit, layer upon layer, from the narrative itself.

The humour doesn’t rise beyond the immature and banal. Gandhi, a popular theatre actor, is all earnestness; Basra and Shastri are deadpan or sport raised brows to conbvey anger; McBeath pouts and looks confused and flustered.

The Phantom backing might make cinema buffs beyond Gujarat curious about the film, but barring a few good songs by Sachin-Jigar, there is not much more to make you curious enough to watch it.

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Printable version | Dec 15, 2019 10:29:32 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/mumbai/entertainment/Not-quite-on-the-right-track/article14628919.ece

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