Got An Itch In My Stache
Salman Khan had done it and probably started the recent ball rolling with Dabangg hitting blockbuster status. Then there's the efforts by Ajay Devn, Abhishek Bachchan and John Abraham in Singham, Dum Maaro Dum and Force. So it's only a matter of time before the hardworking Akshay Kumar also put on that khaki uniform with the three lions, and play a no nonsense, hard hitting cop up against corruption and evil as personified by local village gangsters. The plot is simple, the fight very pronounced between good and evil, the romance is thick and cheesy, and the villains all very cartoony. It's a Masala offering with a capital M, and Rowdy Rathore was full of rowdy fun.
Akshay Kumar plays two characters here, each with his own half each side of the interval to accommodate the stories of ACP Vikram Rathore the fearless cop, and of Shiva the cunning thief, whom we get introduced having as glib a tongue as he has silky smooth hands every ready to pinch any valuable from anyone. We get up close to Shiva first, and his unlikely romance with Paro (Sonakshi Sinha, whose breakthrough performance was Dabangg). Vowing to give up his thieving ways to gain the acceptance of Neeraja, his henchman 2G (Paresh Ganatra) and he commits one last heist, only to find a six year old girl Chinki in the trunk of supposed valuables they stole, and compelled to have to adopt her in the meantime when she is adamant that Shiva is her dad. All these confusion will get straightened out by the time the interval rolls by, but until then, the narrative is relatively choppy, flitting between Shiva's pursuit of Paro, and his disdain for Chinki.
But it's after the interval where things got a little bit more interesting with the story of Vikram Rathore coming into the picture, and making Rowdy Rathore pretty much worthwhile. Fans of many South Indian cop films will find this Hindi remake of Vikramarkudu in familiar territory, and films of the same genre will probably tote the same narrative structure as well, with honest cop blessed with super human strength (as part of the fun) going up against corrupt officials and thugs who rule villages with iron fists. In some ways it's almost serving a cathartic function of sorts, when films offer escapism to those who feel oppressed, and find an outlet to cheer for the unlikely coming of a hero, if only on screen. With anyone challenging oppressive authority, schemes will soon be in place to remove the thorn in any corrupt side, but I must say witnessing Vikram Rathore tear through evil like hot knife through butter, was really something that anyone can cheer to after a hard day's work, especially if one has one's fair share of injustice experienced during the day.
It was publicized that Akshay Kumar hasn't played an all out action role since, well 7 years ago, but I thought Tashan wasn't that far behind although he had to share the limelight with his co-stars. Here he owned both characters he played, with the only distinguishing factor between Shiva and Vikram being the subtleness in the design of the mustache he wore for each character. Action sequences are naturally over the top in any Masala film, and this one has its fair share of incredible stunts topped with countless of explosions. There's something a little bit disturbing though in the action choreography, in its effort to follow Hollywood yet again, that slow-motion techniques favoured by the likes of Zack Snyder, found its way to this Bollywood film, and in a pivotal sequence, looked very much inspired by Stephen Chow's Kungfu Hustle, even after so long.
But the best parts of Rowdy Rathore isn't the action, but the characterization and the Indian-English dialogues they're made to express. In Vikram Rathore he stands by his fearlessness of death, and threats to anyone daring to put his daughter in harm's way, with that twirl of his handle-bar mustache and smile, capped with his mantra that he does whatever he says. Shiva on the other hand, although of less brawn but equally, if not more cunning, continues Vikram's good work as Rowdy Rathore, only to add a new flavour to Vikram's threat that he now also does what he doesn't say, sending his enemies into a frenzy only because they cannot fathom what Shiva has up his sleeves.
The song and dance sequences got largely limited to when Shiva and Paro get to express their love for each other, inclusive of spatial travel to far flungs of India, and it's a little bit surprising as to the numbers of songs, and frequency the narrative got interrupted. With the second half intensely gripping, it got abruptly paused for a rock-song sequence that not only brought both actors out of character, but ruined the mood it so carefully set out to craft and instill a forthcoming brooding sense of revenge. Still, it managed to pull in more star power especially in its title track of Chinta Ta Ta Chita Chita with Kareena Kapoor and Superstar Vijay as cameo Item performers.
There's a third story arc squeezed in at the end that came too rushed and was on overdrive to deliver the Rowdy Rathore portion. It was fun to see how the corrupt get their just desserts when having to go up against one of their own - the mantra it takes a thief to catch a thief - and the finale was a pretty much long drawn out affair that started off out of the blue with a sudden kidnapping of sorts. It's true that one can always fall back that a Masala film gets license to do whatever it wants to, but I just felt that if it could have been a little bit more disciplined with its structure, rather than to throw in curveballs on locales and characters, it had potential to become a cult classic. Still, for those of us who crave the quintessential Masala film in a long while, then Rowdy Rathore promises a rocking rowdy time!