At one point in Gunday, Ranveer Singh and Arjun Kapoor watch Mr India in a dingy movie theater, and start drooling when Priyanka Chopra, clad in a blue saree starts dancing in sync with Sridevi to Kate katate ye din ye raat. It’s a pretty spectacular moment and a fun throwback to the 80’s. A few minutes after that sequence, the two friends start quarrelling over the same woman. And then they fight some more over a really lame case of mistaken identity. And then you want to grab the movie by the collar, shake it and yell ‘You are supposed to parody the 80’s, not be an 80’s film!’
There is a massive difference between trying to evoke 80’s Bollywood movies and becoming an 80’s Bollywood movie. That, alas, is the fundamental flaw of Gunday, a flat out boring film that tries to add masala into itself by utilizing uber loudness, mega overacting and fifteen thousand slow mo look-at-me shots. Directed by Ali Abbas Zafar, the film is every bit as contrived, ludicrous, nonsensical and insipid as his previous film Mere Brother ki Dulhan. And like that movie Gunday also has incredibly stupid protagonists doing incredibly stupid things for two and a half hours, stretching the realms of logic and common sense to grating levels.
Ranveer Singh and Arjun Kapoor play Bikram and Bala, two Calcutta kids who grow up as coal Gundas. They both generate the hots for a cabaret dancer (Priyanka Chopra) and spend the entirety of the movie fighting over her. That, folks, is literally the whole plot. There is absolutely nothing more in the film. So to pad up the lack of a decent story, Ranveer and Arjun become topless in slow mo, run in slow mo, grin in slow mo, shout in slow mo, slap in slow mo, walk in slow mo and sit in slow mo.
Everything that happens in every scene of Gunday takes place at 1.5 times the intensity required. Arjun makes weird faces and hams, Ranveer flexes his bare pecks while talking, Priyanka wears outrageous costumes and waxes eloquent. And the cycle continues in periodic intervals, as Arjun stares at the camera and saunters dramatically, Ranveer squeals manically and Priyanka does another cabaret number. All this makes you feel like a lone sober guy in the midst of a bunch of extremely drunk North Indians cackling loudly at their own silly jokes.
None of the ‘masala’ elements work here. When a goon smashes a bottle over Arjun’s head, he says ‘Rum? Ab dekh dum’ and kicks him out of the train. It’s somehow neither funny nor crowd pleasing nor entertaining, more so because the leads just don’t have the mojo to pull off such masaledaar scenes. There’s a reason why Salman Khan is a big star – he can deliver scenes like these with style. Ranveer and Arjun neither have the talent to pull off an 80’s throwback nor do they have any semblance of comic timing to make their camaraderie more fun. This is bizarre especially because they seemed to exhibit great timing in their recent Koffee with Karan episode. One expects the same kind of hilarious bromance in Gunday but it never comes.
In total contrast is Irrfan, who is sexier than both Ranveer and Arjun in the film. His police officer character is intimidating not just to Bikram and Bala but also very obviously to Ranveer and Arjun. Irrfan effortlessly proves that you don’t need hulking biceps and oiled hairless torsos to be suave and awesome in Hindi cinema. When Irrfan says ‘Pistol ki goli aur laundiya ki boli dono aadmi ki jaan le sakti hai’, the lines come alive and the cheers from the audience finally arrive. Both the young lads need to learn from this man.
Priyanka Chopra is the only one in the film who wants to satirize the 80’s, and she’s very interesting in the first half when her character does exactly that. Like Katrina Kaif’s character in MBKD who turns from a rocker chick to a sati savitri in a heartbeat, Chopra’s cabaret dancer character also undergoes a groan inducing pavitra rishta turn.
There is a good film somewhere within Gunday, and I wish it showed its face fully. This is the film where a shootout in the movie theater ends with Bikram firing a bullet through the screen, and Alisha Chinoy’s ‘I love you’ echoes as the screen literally tears apart. I wish they made that movie instead of this uninteresting one.
(First published in Firstpost)