If Anil Sharma ever gave a movie-making contract to a bunch of drunken teenage boys, it might look something like Akshay Kumar’s Rowdy Rathore. Because this film is as funny as tuberculosis.
Five minutes into Rowdy Rathore, you begin to suspect that everyone associated with this film had been under the influence of very high grade marijuana while producing it. Passed off as ‘humor’ are scenes like a thief raiding a house with a poori in his mouth, and making the owner of the house bite it; or a female cop taking her cap off and dancing mischievously after our hero sprays deodorant on himself. It is a movie made by people who laugh at their own jokes, made for people who will laugh at anything. And at the helm is star Akshay Kumar, whose comedy here is not just endured, but feels like spending twenty four hours with an inebriated, stoned bore who thinks he's being funny by constantly making faces. It almost seems like he was upset to be the last guy at the Tollywood Remake Buffet Table, following Salman, Aamir and Ajay Devgn.
The ‘story’ would seem outdated even if the film released during the stone age - Shiva (Akshay Kumar) is a smalltime bandit who falls for Priya (Sonakshi) and stumbles across a little girl, the daughter of his doppelganger policeman Vikram Rathore and crosses paths with a gang of hoodlums from a Bihar village who are after Rathore. Of course any semblance of a story makes way for sloppy narrative, vulgar lines, tedious attempts at slow-mo fighting and jokes that seem to date from before South remakes turned Bollywood into a cottage industry. Even the two gags that are mildly funny have a smug, take-it-or-leave-it tone that makes giving a damn about anything on screen seem impossible.
Writer Shiraz Ahmad stoops to using Sonakshi Sinha’s bare tummy as a stand-in when he runs out of the hollow little skits. And then he brings in the most achingly clichéd pan-chewing women-raping sweaty goondas from the 80’s, the ones who’d make even the lyricist of the song ‘Daloonga Daloonga’ roll his eyes. During one scene a police officer (Yashpal Sharma, in a horrendous role) goes with his kids to a smarmy goonda (Nassar) to beg him to return his wife who is held as a sex slave by the goon’s deranged son. And as the woman is displayed in front of everyone by the chest-scratching baddie, the goonda promises to let her go in two days, after which he throws his head back and laughs. That is as classy as it gets. On the plus side, at least director Prabhudheva doesn’t subject us to full-on shots of women being brutally molested by sniggering men in Leopard skin underwear. It's a small mercy, but a mercy nonetheless.
What's most appalling is that the filmmakers felt the need to make this pungent mound of toxins run for more than two and a half hours, as if they actually have something to say. But all I saw in between the Akshaygasms was a torrential rain of paychecks and a distasteful disregard for entertainment. Mindless masala movies can be fun but Rowdy Rathore presents a cinematic devolution that yammers on endlessly and insultingly. A real crook would steal your money and then walk away, but producer Sanjay Leela Bhansali and co seem to be content to first take your money and then clobber you until you are reduced to a dead nubbin with your ticket floating in a pool of your blood.
Director Prabhudheva has electrifying energy but he seems to use it to mask his shortcomings. Sonakshi is not horrible - which for her is a real step up. She looks seductive (and butch) while holding a plate of laddoos and behaves like Malvika Tiwari in Chamatkar. A nice change from Akshay Kumar who sounds like he is falling asleep.
If Bollywood has another opportunity to remake a Ravi Teja film (that sound you hear is me twirling a mala of divine beads, praying that doesn’t happen), maybe it should only have each actor simply sitting around drinking tea. After Wanted and Singham I have yet to understand what makes them so profitable, and if Rowdy Rathore is the type of filmmaking we can expect from Bollywood in the future, maybe the 2012 apocalypse isn’t such a bad choice after all.