Saturday, May 18, 2013


Release date:
May 17, 2013
Atul Sabharwal


Arjun Kapoor, Rishi Kapoor, Prithviraj Sukumaran, Jackie Shroff, Amrita Singh, Sasheh Aagha, Deepti Naval, Sikander Kher (credited here as Sikandar Berry), Swara Bhaskar, Anupam Kher, Tanve Azmi

In the future, this country will be controlled by two sets of people: politicians and corporates – sources of extreme power and extreme wealth. The police will derive their strength from deciding who to align with.

These words are uttered by a pivotal character in Aurangzeb. And it is his belief that forms the theme of this latest offering from Yashraj Films. Arjun Kapoor, Rishi Kapoor and Prithviraj Sukumaran form the film’s leading trio. Their playing ground is Gurgaon, the booming city in Haryana that forms a wealthy suburb to the country’s capital, New Delhi. This is hitherto rarely-explored territory in Bollywood. Rishi plays DCP Ravikant who decides to infiltrate the builder-gangster Yashvardhan Singh’s operations taking advantage of the fact that Yashvardhan’s son Ajay has a twin Vishal who has long been considered dead by his father (Arjun plays both boys). Ravikant is supported in his scheme by his nephew/foster son ACP Arya (Prithviraj).

Writer-director Atul Sabharwal has a straight-laced, no-frills approach to storytelling, which is his strength. In fact, if it weren’t for the multiplicity of characters and convoluted relationships that confound the confusion over identical siblings in the last half hour, this is actually a nice film. Unfortunately, if well begun is half done, then poorly ended equals undone, and that’s the problem with Aurangzeb.

Still, while the going’s good, it’s very good. Gurgaon is an ideal setting for this story, its glitzy high-rises rubbing shoulders with acres of vacant land that form a paradise for a builder-politician-criminal-police nexus. The glass-and-chrome buildings, the dusty plots of land, the lonely roads and shrubbery in their vicinity are all well used by director of photography N. Karthik Ganesh to build up a sense of foreboding about the fate of the characters populating the film. Vipin Mishra’s background score is just as effective and understated (though his songs, supplemented by Amartya Rahut, are a tad lifeless).

Most of all there is the cast. God bless this era in Hindi filmdom that provides opportunities such as Aurangzeb to an older talent like Rishi Kapoor. In his second innings in Bollywood, the actor has been exploring so many more avatars than he did in his youth. Nowhere though have his chameleon-like abilities been more in evidence than in this film in which he manages to be menacing despite an extremely personable appearance, brutal yet so hard to dislike.

Last year, Malayalam star Prithviraj had sportingly offered himself up for objectification before Rani Mukerji’s unrelenting gaze in Aiyyaa. In this, his second film in Bollywood, he shows Hindi viewers what fans in Kerala know already: that beyond the handsome face and well-muscled body, there is a fine actor who can stand shoulder to shoulder with a veteran like Rishi and do his director proud. That he has pulled off a north Indian character while only occasionally betraying a hint of a Malayalam accent is just as commendable. If Bollywood has any sense, it will offer this man more roles.

It’s a challenge then for young Arjun Kapoor to not just face up to these two but also a formidable supporting cast while taking on a double role in this, his second film. The verdict: well, he’s good as the spoilt brat Ajay (funny and cute, in fact) but needed to lend some spark to his performance as the more staid Vishal. That he manages to make them different people for us without caricaturing either is notable though. The script shows up a flaw here however – Ajay is supposedly being fed a diet of cocaine and alcohol by his girlfriend, yet when he’s kidnapped and kept away from that lifestyle for a considerable period of time, he shows no signs of withdrawal symptoms. Hmmm.

Salma Agha’s daughter Sasheh Aagha makes an interesting debut in Aurangzeb as Ajay’s much abused girlfriend. There’s one particularly tender scene in which she senses that Vishal is not Ajay, not because of some silly mole or birthmark or any other device favoured by bichhde-hue-bhai Hindi films of the past, but because of his thoughtfulness towards her. It’s nice to see Jackie Shroff as Yashvardhan, inhabiting a worthwhile role in a Hindi film after a long time. And Amrita Singh, who’s suitably evil as his mistress, really should do more films.  

With so much going for it, it’s unfortunate that the last half hour of Aurangzeb is spent mentally trying to figure out which brother is where and trying to recall who is related to who in this web of characters. The handling of a couple of the shootouts too is off the mark leading to some disappointingly un-energetic scenes. A pity, because it’s such a pleasure to see a face-off between the principles of one man whose mantra is “kingship over kinship”, while another believes that “Apnon ki keemat sapnon se bada hota hai”. Maybe next time then, Atul Sabharwal? Hope to see you again soon.

Rating (out of five): **3/4

CBFC Rating (India):
Running time:
145 minutes

Photograph courtesy: Yashraj Films

1 comment:

  1. The movie lacks good songs yet for the fans of Jackie Shroff, Arjun Kapoor and Rishi Kapoor, it is a good one. These three have done good acting but Arjun Kapoor can do much better than this.