Saturday, March 06, 2004

the minor miracle of khakee {NOTE: scattered thoughts and spoilers}

It's amazing. Rajkumar Santoshi manages a minor miracle with Khakee. Santoshi continues to flounder in the tautness department, and it is extremely disappointing in this case, when he seems to have got the other bits right: a decent cast (barring the mercifully brief turn by Aishwarya Rai) with Akshay Kumar turning in a performance that deserves an award simply for finally managing to "act" (bravo!), Tusshar (his father co-starred with the Big B, and thus AB and Madhuri Dixit join a list for starring opposite successive generations), Atul Kulkarni, Ajay Devgan (assisted by the only decent motif in the background score, and relishing his role with devilish glee). Lara Dutta's cameo provides more evidence of how ugly and vulgar she can be on screen (which is probably all she should focus on). And then there's another star of the yesteryears, Tanuja. Santoshi makes amends for his China (Heaven's) Gate attempt at getting veterans to lead a film. And yet, we have problems. The Big B gets to mouth the tired bit addressed to Muslim terrorists in Bollywood (you know, the just because of a few like you your kaum etc etc). The film is a great watch (barring the extremely unreadable opening credits, the sick synthetic ectoplasmic sheen that plagued other films like Qayamat) until the first song. And I sat there aghast. Why does Santoshi insist on blowing up any good chance he has of making a decent movie? With all the tension building up, with a good pace, what was the frigging need to put in a song? Was this part of Ms Rai's contract? (since my "acting" role is short, I would like a few songs). And there are a couple of other predictable sick musical breaks later on. And the sequence when the cops give Ansari (Kulkarni) a decent burial cannot rise above the mediocrity of clichés. And there's bad dialogue synching at several points. The gaffe alert went off with noticeable REM when the Big B pulls back the sheet covering the face of the dead Akshay Kumar. Santoshi and co-writer Shridhar Raghavan (whose brother made his directorial début with Ek Hasina Thi) deserve credit for not shying away from breaking established clichés of life and death. And the Big B makes sure that good dialogue is delivered the right way. And also, that bad dialogue does not send you hammering your head against the wall. And pray tell me who that extra was who played SaaTam? Pathetic acting and dialogue delivery. Devgan needs another style for his cigarette smoking.

The film belongs to Amitabh Bachchan, who does a Clint Eastwood by letting the baggage of his angry young man iconography assist his playing of a believable aging cop who wants one last shot of glory. The first time we see him is when he is nodding off at a function at the training school. And later on I couldn't resist a smile when he runs out of breath and dives into his pockets for an aspirator while giving chase (I have to say, I was hoping Santoshi would put it in). Jaya Prada adds to the Big B ethos with her cameo as his wife. And pray tell me what the justification is in overdubbing haraam zaadaa (well established in Bollywood history) as haraam Kor and bhaDavaa (once again, a standard) as dalaal?? I noted a couple of references to other Big B movies, but this could be my overacting imagination. Akshay Kumar talks about the two kinds of i.nsaaf. Was that a tip to the Big B's drunken speech in Hum? Trivia note: this film was a Ramsay family production.

Santoshi seems hell-bent on doing for the Big B in his later years, what Desai, Mehra, and Salim-Javed did for him during his peak. I only hope this helps him churn out better mainstream entertainers. And I wish he would master the art of continuity and flow, which are essential when making movies like this. And yes, could we find someone who can spell resemblance correctly?

Addendum: Note from my friends: Prakash Raj, who plays ACP Naidu in the film, is a famous actor in the Telugu film industry. His face seemed generally familiar, and my guess is he has done some other Bollywood movies, but memory does not serve me well here.

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