At Your Service
Even before the first reel unspools in Singapore a little later than its Eid holiday release in India, reports have already been rolling in on how it's currently breaking box office records there, and in all likelihood signals Salman Khan's triple whammy of releasing back to back to back blockbuster hits, putting him at the forefront of the Khans of Bollywood in terms, with Aamir taking on a bigger role behind the screens this year, and Shah Rukh holding back two releases for Diwali (Ra.One, touted as India's most expensive) and Christmas with Farhan Akhtar's Don 2. But for now there's no stopping the Salman Khan juggernaut where even I for once am impressed, while Ready didn't do it for me, Bodyguard pulls out all the stops to become a definite crowd pleaser.
And it's not difficult to see how, and why since Salman is a hulking institution in himself, allowing the film which is written and directed by Siddique who with this film has remade it twice from his original Malayalam version last year, to play to what would be the Salman Khan action formula. With my limited Salman Khan filmography under my belt, I can't help but to compare Salman's Chulbul Pandey of Dabangg with that of his Lovely Singh (yes, his name is indeed Lovely) of Bodyguard, where the introduction to the character deserves an item song no less, with Katrina Kaif playing herself as an item girl allowing plenty of Sheila Ki Jawani references peppered in the film. The tone's pretty much set when Salman makes his biceps dance - yes you read that right - like only Salman knows how, and I honestly believe this will turn out to be a hit move on the dance floor just like how he jiggled with his belt buckle in Dabangg, or those catchy moves seen in Ready, and swaggered whenever getting the chance to.
As Lovely Singh the bodyguard for hire from Tiger Security, Salman Khan plays his stereotypical hero blessed with a heart of gold, with a simple objective in life to be the best that he can be in his job without compromise or distraction, where his asking for a favour is to advise his adversaries never to ask for one in the first place. And if his holding his breath with arms pumped wide isn't deterrent enough, he packs some serious power in his punch and kick to send opponents sprawling. Perhaps it's part age, part long drawn injuries, or even part rationale for the filmmakers to want to dabble with a number of visual effects, that the fight scenes here is sans the intensity seen in recent Salman films, and relied pretty heavily on cartoony effects to a larger part which on one hand toned down the violent nature of bone crunching, finishing moves, and on the other was made to look really artificial and missing what fans have turned up in droves for, watching their hero dish out some serious punishment to the bad guys. Think of it almost in similar fashion how kung fu got treated in Stephen Chow's Shaolin Soccer and Kung Fu, and you get the drift.
while the moves may seem a little too green screen for comfort, some things remain as real as they can be, such as the unmistakable finale involving a bare bodied hulking Salman; in case you didn't know one of the highlights of his films is to see how filmmakers challenge one another to create unique ways of an excuse to turn Salman topless for some muscle flexing. But while the title of the film may be macho sounding and brings forth many conjectures about how one is assigned to protect one's employer, in this case Lovely is being hired to protect the only daughter (Kareena Kapoor) of his benefactor Sartaj Rana (Raj Babbar), in actual fact it's far more a romantic story than an action one, with limited set action sequence on display.
The core of the story revolves around how Kareena Kapoor's college girl Divya and her best friend (Hazel Keech) try so hard to shake Lovely off their backs, with Divya devising a plan to distract Lovely from his duties of protection and providing physical training by adding some romance into his life. Posing as a secret admirer and calling constantly from a private number to flirt with Lovely, it's a classic tale of being careful of what you're wishing for, as it turns the simple, sincere Lovely into believing that someone anonymous actually fancies him, and between the two strike up some real feelings with our A+ bodyguard none the wiser of the real identity of his "Chayya".
Romantic die-hards will swoon over the forbidden love and melodrama thus presented, since it's a love that cannot be since it's based on deceit on both ends even, one keeping her identity secret and the other starting to waver in his diligence and coming up with excuses to scoot off, and not forgetting the obvious potential parental objections as well as the crossing of the line between employer and employee. The song Teri Meri sung by the duet of Shreya Ghoshal and the acclaimed Rahat Fateh Ali Khan cannot be more poignant and apt when it interjected the narrative for the usual song and dance routine, and it's to no surprise it's my favourite song of the lot here, besides the fun title track Bodyguard.
But to call Bodyguard the perfect film will be a bit of a stretch. At times its comedy tried too hard especially since it relied heavily on the obesity of Rajat Rawail's Tsunami to bring on the laughs with his uncouth behaviour and language, and had villains who were without so much as a threat in their execution of their kidnapping plan. What's perhaps more criminal here is the editing, where the narrative felt hastily pieced together leaving behind a lot more on the cutting room floor, and for action sequences to be strung together as a series of ad-hoc battles without a proper flow nor provide for any spatial awareness and references. Twists in the final act more than compensates for its flaws, while it did turn out to be quite lengthy, had to stick to its guns since that's the big reveal from the original version that had to be kept intact for this to qualify as a remake.
Still, Bodyguard was a lot of fun especially with a packed full house of Salman's fans turning up to celebrate yet another big screen outing of their larger than life hero. There's this unmistakable infectious energy that Salman Khan brings to his films these days perhaps drawn from the confidence of recent box office gold he had struck, and his performance showed that he's equally adept at playing the action hero, the lovelorn romantic lead or just plain swaggering around the screen in his on-screen persona. Recommended, and definitely so for Salman Khan fans!