Saturday, June 22, 2013


Release date:
June 21, 2013
Susi Ganeshan


Neil Nitin Mukesh, Ameesha Patel, Puja Gupta

Shortcut Romeo doggedly pursues a formula Bollywood’s better directors have been trying to eschew. Songs in this film don’t even pretend to take the narrative forward. No effort has been made to smoothen out the arrival of a musical number or its end. Unlike many of today’s film makers who facilitate a character’s visit to a nightclub to justify the insertion of a song-and-dance interlude at a particular point, this one does not bother even with that. No sir, writer-director Susi Ganeshan simply stuffs song after unremarkable song into Shortcut Romeo as and when he wishes – abruptly, and sometimes to comical effect as a consequence.

Still, there are actually quite a few attractive individual elements in this film which is the Hindi remake of Ganeshan’s own Tamil film Thiruttu Payale. For one there’s leading man Neil Nitin Mukesh who is delightfully evil and vulnerable by turns in Shortcut Romeo. Former Miss India Puja Gupta fills out her role as well as she fills out a stunning little bikini in this film. She has evolved very swiftly from her so-so-ness in F.A.L.T.U. in 2011 to her brief though effective turn in Go Goa Gone earlier this year to the sweet likeability of her performance here.

If you consider just the kernel of Shortcut Romeo’s story, you’d see that it has potential. A con man called Suraj (Neil) blackmails the wealthy Monica (Ameesha Patel) with a video of her doing the dirty with her husband’s friend. The two play cat-and-mouse games to outwit each other, he to get millions out of her, she to get back that video. The husband is too busy making those millions to give her time but he loves her immensely all the same. Ridden with guilt, Monica wants to get out of her affair but is tied down by Suraj’s blackmail and her boyfriend’s refusal now to let her go. Everything changes though when Suraj meets the heiress Sherry (Puja Gupta) while on a vacation in Kenya paid for by Monica, and falls deeply in love.

The desperation of a woman blackmailed, the transformation of a man in love, the pain of a husband cheated by a beloved wife can all be compelling. Yet Shortcut Romeo falls terribly short. Apart from the tendency to unceremoniously thrust songs into the proceedings, the film also gives its hero an unconvincing emotional graph. Suraj’s physical attraction towards Sherry is plausible, but considering that they barely get to know each other on that trip, it’s hard to digest his all-consuming love; a love for which he turns his back on a lifetime of trickery at Sherry’s request, settles for a middle-class existence and takes up a job to honestly earn his bread. Can a bikini have such a life-changing effect on a man?! Just kidding.

But seriously… The depth and sincerity of Suraj’s love for Sherry is inexplicable, making it hard as a viewer to invest in their relationship. What makes it hard to invest in the film as a whole though is that the pivotal role of Monica is played by an actress who can’t act to save her life. (SPOILERS AHEAD!) This was a role that required a much greater talent, someone who could effectively switch from the helplessness of a blackmail victim whenever she’s cornered to the viciousness she’s capable of in the battle with her blackmailer to the triumph each time she thinks she’s outsmarted him to the penitence of the wife who’s gone astray to her heartbreak when she is raped by her boyfriend under threat that he’ll inform her husband about their affair unless she gives in. In the telling of that last episode, Ganeshan does something that few people in the Hindi film industry – or our society at large – would do. He does not adopt a “she asked for it” tone. Bless him for that. Ameesha gives her best to the character but that, sadly, is far from enough.

She is not, however, the film’s only weakness. Ganeshan’s direction is inconsistent. There’s a disconnect between his storytelling style in different parts of the film. Plus he elongates a story that might have been effective as a one-and-a-half-hour songless thriller into an over-two-and-a-half-hour long, song-filled affair. There are actually some rather well-told portions in this film, most notably the poignant flashback to Suraj’s childhood which explains how and why he developed a weakness for shortcuts to wealth. The action sequences where Suraj is fighting off goons sent by Monica (especially the one in Kenya) are smoothly executed. It’s interesting too that Ganeshan chose to explore Kenya as a location for Suraj’s vacation. Bollywood is fixated on North America, Europe and more recently, Australia. The wilds of Africa lend themselves to many breathtaking shots in this film, but bereft of emotional heft, those scenes end up seeming better suited to a Discovery channel documentary than a fiction feature. Vrajesh Hirjee’s entry with four African women in tow shaking their booty to Bollywood item numbers is like most of Hirjee’s film appearances: irritating, cringe-worthy, and unconnected to the rest of the film. Logic is not always a priority here. How, for instance, does an innocent and poor, usually-cotton-salwar-kameez-clad girl (don’t ask who) transform overnight into a glamorous, swimsuit-wearing sophisticate? No idea. And that’s the way the film goes: crest, trough, crest, trough, up, down, high point, low point, high point… The last half hour of Shortcut Romeo holds out several surprises. The tautness of the narrative at this point is what Ganeshan should have gone for throughout. Sadly, by then it’s too late to salvage the film.

Rating (out of five): *1/2

CBFC Rating (India):
Running time:
153 minutes (as per
Photograph courtesy: Effective Communication

1 comment:

  1. Neil is just ok........ he still have lot of scope to prove his worth as an actor... just ok movie