Wednesday, October 16, 2013


Release date:
October 16, 2013
Anthony D’souza


Akshay Kumar, Shiv Pandit, Aditi Rao Hydari, Mithun Chakraborty, Ronit Roy, Parikshit Sahni, Danny Denzongpa. Guest stars: Sonakshi Sinha, Shakti Kapoor, Prabhu Deva, Yo Yo Honey Singh

Cleverly-crafted mindlessness can be so much fun. Boss is mindless all right, but cleverly crafted it is not. Over and above everything else, it is designed as a vehicle for its megastar hero, his trademark swagger, his looks, his agility… you get the picture. Plot matters little in such films, but for the record, this is it: a teenager called Surya is disowned by his father (Mithun Chakraborty) for acts of violence that were not his fault. Surya is taken in by the kind-hearted gangster Big Boss (Danny Denzongpa) and 15 years later we meet him as the old man’s comrade-in-arms, known to the world as Boss (Akshay Kumar). His bête noir is the corrupt ACP Ayushman Thakur (Ronit Roy) whose sister Ankita (Aditi Rao Hydari) falls for Boss’ brother Shiv (Shiv Pandit) though Ayushman wants her to marry a minister’s loser son.

Never mind Akshay’s distractingly over-gelled hair or the fact that this nicely-fit 46-year-old actor is trying to pass off as a man in his early 30s in this film; we’ve got bigger problems here. Many Bollywood buffs have lamented The Curse Of The Second Half that has afflicted so many Hindi films in recent years. In Boss, the situation is reversed. It’s first half is littered with PJs-trying-desperately-to-sound-smart and action-trying-desperately-to-look-cool, and all the film’s genuinely comical and suspenseful scenes come in the second half. There’s one particularly hilarious scene involving Shiv reading text off Boss’ various body parts. And while the rest of the film’s songs are strangely noisy and tuneless (yes including the much-hyped title track featuring Akshay mounted on an all-gold Mercedes!), two remixes save the day. The Tamil superhit Appadi pode has been rewritten as the tad-noisy-yet-fun Hum na chhode; and Har kisi ko nahin milta yahan pyaar zindagi mein filmed memorably on Sridevi and Feroz Khan in 1986’s Jaanbaaz, is first filmed here on Shiv-Ankita and runs a second time with Boss and Sonakshi (Sonakshi Sinha) right at the end – it’s equally enjoyable both times.

What Sonakshi is doing in this film is a big question. Although Bollywood is shockingly male dominated, none of today’s other reigning male superstars relegates women to the insignificance accorded to most heroines of Akshay and Salman Khan’s films. In The World According To Akshay-Salman, women are meant to be pretty and/or protected, romanced and danced with, but nothing more. Boss takes its male interpretation of the world to a different level altogether by dispensing with a heroine completely, reducing what Bollywood traditionally calls the “female love interest” to nothing but an “item girl”. Sonakshi initially appears in the film at a party where she dances to Party all night while singer Yo Yo Honey Singh leers at her and a crowd of bra-top-clad gori women. Then she disappears to resurface in the finale song. Having proved in Lootera that you are capable of so much more, why would you reduce yourself to being a glamorous nobody in a film, Ms Sinha?

To be fair, this treatment is meted out not just to women, but to everyone else in the film except Mithun Chakraborty, Danny Denzongpa and Ronit Roy. A fantastic character actor like Mukesh Tiwari gets a few seconds on screen. Comedian Sanjay Mishra gets a few minutes of nothingness. Aditi Rao Hydari, who sparkled in Yeh Saali Zindagi and London Paris New York, is relegated to the role of a sweet face and a hot bod (underline that!) in a bikini. Poor Shiv Pandit from Shaitan, handsome and talented though he is, is often treated like an extra in Boss even though he plays a key role. Nowhere is the centrality of Akshay and the marginality of the rest of the cast emphasised more than in Hum na chhode in which Shiv is present in the scene but the spotlight rests throughout on Akshay’s Boss dancing wildly surrounded by an army of women. Then suddenly as the song ends, Shiv is once again awkwardly plonked next to Boss to dance energetically for a few seconds.

Early in the film, Ayushman tells a man: “Maut se kyun bhaag raha hai re? Maut ko log yu hi badnaam karte hai. Takleef toh zindagi deti hai.” A filmi type like me could live off such lines but writers Farhad-Sajid struggle to sustain the tone. They even start repeating themselves after a few scenes. Boss has pretensions to intellectual depth with the action shifting from Delhi to Kurukshetra and Boss being likened to Arjun, but again Farhad-Sajid can’t pull it off.

At his best, Akshay Kumar has an arresting screen presence and a flair for the action-comedy mix. We get glimpses of that man in the second half of this film, but it’s hard to fully enjoy a star when he becomes overly conscious of his charisma and his indulgent fans. He is not the only one. Too many recent solo-hero action-comedy flicks have suffered from this problem. They’ve even begun to resemble each other. Where does Rowdy Rathore end and Khiladi 786 begin? Where does Dabangg end and Ready begin? In a stark reminder of Dabangg, Boss even features a climactic fight in which Ayushman rips off his baniyaan, to which gesture Boss responds by tearing open his kurta. I’m not sure what profound meaning those moves have, though I suppose I shouldn’t grumble since both actors have wonderfully toned bodies without being over-muscled. Okay then, that complaint is withdrawn, Milord! The rest still stand.  

Rating (out of five): **

CBFC Rating (India):
U/A (despite some extremely violent scenes)
Running time:
2 hours 24 minutes

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