December 6, 2013
Shahid Kapoor, Sonu Sood, Sonakshi Sinha, Mukul Dev, Ashish Vidyarthi, Asrani, Srihari
Somewhere in a secret location between Mumbai and Chennai, there’s a factory that has mastered the assembly-line technique. The formula for the factory’s product is this: physically invincible hero (usually played by Akshay Kumar) + vulnerable heroine (almost always played by Sonakshi Sinha) + evil villain + lots of scenes in which the heroine is stalked by the hero or roughed up by the villain or both + loud songs + massive crowds of extras led by hero dancing to those songs + guest appearance by the rubber-spined Prabhu Deva in one of the songs + loud loud colours + litres of blood + shouting + humour interspersed with violence + one punch line that the hero repeats at regular intervals = a film!
Now here are instructions for the factory workers this week: (1) Replace Akshay Kumar with Shahid Kapoor. (2) In place of one villain have two. (3) Give Shahid’s character the grandiose line, “Silent ho jaa varna main violent ho jaaoonga.” (4) Check off the rest of the items in the formula – Sonakshi, yawn, check… blood, yawn, check… Prabhu Deva (also the film’s director), yawn, check… Ladies and gentlemen, here’s presenting RAMBO RAJKUMAR!!!!!
Oh ya, that’s the old title of R…Rajkumar. The name change was reportedly forced on the makers by copyright issues. Wish they’d been legally compelled to come up with at least one original thought for this project. For whatever it’s worth, this is the story: Romeo Rajkumar (Kapoor) works for the cocaine lord Shivraj (Sonu Sood) in Dhartipur village. He is assigned to kill Shivraj’s rival Parmar (Ashish Vidyarthi) but is distracted by the discovery that Chanda, the girl he ‘loves’, is the fellow’s niece. Chanda doesn’t care for Rajkumar but it’s nothing that some good old Hindi-film-style stalking and roughing up can’t fix. The damsel’s heart having been thus won, another impediment surfaces when Shivraj also falls for her. What follows is lots of scheming, screaming and bloodletting until the happily ever after.
I watched R…Rajkumar in a benumbed state of boredom because, try though I did, I couldn’t find a single element in it that we haven’t already seen in the gaudy-garish genre in recent years. The film is so cliched that I don’t even have the energy here to dwell at length on the many feminist concerns it raises with the treatment of its heroine. It would be callous not to raise one point though: there is nothing more disturbing in this film than the passing scene of a corrupt police officer raping a woman who’s probably in custody at his police station. We don’t actually see him in the act. The camera in the adjoining room is aimed somewhere in the direction of the bars of an open cell. On the floor we see a woman’s out-stretched arm and we hear her cries. A phone rings, someone calls out to the policeman who emerges from the cell in a dishevelled state while the woman continues to wail. In another film this could have been a poignant moment. In R…Rajkumar – a film which doesn’t display an iota of tenderness on any front, in which the hero’s irritating and distasteful idea of wooing is to pucker up his lips at every sight of the reluctant girl, which treats women as showpieces, in which bosomy female humans appear out of nowhere to grind their hips and bulging breasts to a song, in which the rape scene is just casually thrown in as if designed to titillate the target audience, in which no context of sensitivity is offered before or after that scene – it’s above and beyond offensive.
Any positives, did you ask? Well, Kapoor looks cute and dances well as usual, he fights smoothly, is funny in places and throws himself into the role with gusto, but what can actorly zeal do in the face of such a trite screenplay? It’s tragic to see Vishal Bhardwaj’s Guddu/Charlie from Kaminey reducing himself to a Romeo Rajkumar. R…Rajkumar has nothing new to offer even a fine actor like Sood whose Chhedi Singh in Dabangg was hilarious. No, it’s not good enough that his bare torso is a sight to behold or that, as he helpfully informs us, his upper arm has a wider circumference than Romeo Rajkumar’s thigh. Sonakshi Sinha looks sweeter here than ever before, possibly because she thankfully doesn’t repeatedly flash her profile at us in this film as she has done in that trademark, painfully self-conscious fashion in all her films so far. She clearly has comic abilities worth tapping, but persists in wasting herself on formulaic films in which women characters are particularly poorly written and the heroine is a prize to be won by the hero or villain. In the midst of the dialoguebaazi by all the characters, she too has a scene in which she gets to yell “khamosh!!!” in a bow to her famous daddy, but it ends up being a decidedly unfunny moment in a film filled with un-funny-ness, repetitiveness, bombast and noise.
In the first half hour it does seem like R…Rajkumar might actually offer that blend of humour and action that made Dabangg an enjoyable experience. It fizzles out though as the film becomes gradually indistinguishable from Rowdy Rathore, Khiladi 786, Boss and others that have emerged from the factory. What exactly is the difference? I’ve already forgotten!
Rating (out of five): *
CBFC Rating (India):
2 hours 27 minutes
Photograph courtesy: Everymedia PR